UCF run offense vs. Ohio run defense: The Knights need to see some upgrading in this phase of the game compared to the lost against Kent State. Alex Haynes found some holes and picked 165 yards on 30 carries in the last game against Buffalo. The 30 attempts vs. Buffalo put Haynes sixth on the all-time, single-game rushing attempts list at UCF. Dee Brown also picked up 43 yards on 7 carries. UCF totaled 298 rushing yards in last week's 19-10 victory over Buffalo. The 298 yards rushing were the most in a home game for UCF during Mike Kruczek's six-year tenure as head coach. If UCF is to have a successful season-and have a chance to win at Ohio-it must be able to move the ball on the ground consistently. The Bobcats allowed only 56 rushing yards in their last game against Northern Illinois. More importantly, Ohio shut down the Northern Illinois running game early, holding Heisman candidate Michael Turner to 43 yards rushing. So, the Knights might have more difficulty task this Saturday than you think. Advantage: EVEN.
UCF pass offense vs. Ohio pass defense: Everyone was pretty impressed with the debut of junior quarterback Jon Rivera last Saturday. Although Rivera did not put-up monster numbers like Ryan Schneider, he didn't turn the ball over. Rivera completed only 6 of 14 attempts and merely 59 yards total yards in passing the last game against Buffalo. Against Ohio, the "rookie" QB, Rivera, must avoid giving the Bobcats any short fields. UCF must not make the same costly mistakes by turning the rock over like the game against Kent State. Protect the football and move the chains at all cost. Of course, it would be nice for UCF to "turn the page" offensively a little on Saturday, as well. Ohio had seven interceptions and no sacks this season. The Bobcats are returning eight starters on defense, but it's a defense that gave up 42 points to UCF last season in Orlando. Advantage: UCF.
Ohio run offense vs. UCF run defense: Coming into Saturday game, Ohio features the nation's 15th best rushing attack with an average of 201.4 yards per game on the ground. The Bobcats run an option offense, which could give some of the young Knights a little trouble. The key against the option is to stick with your assignments and that can be difficult for inexperienced Knights, who might be too pumped up for the game. Ohio's quarterback Fred Ray is by far the team's leading rusher this season with 337. Ohio's leading RB is Stafford Owens who has a total of 168 yards and an average of 67.4 yards per game. Owens ranks 71st in the country and ninth in the Mid-American Conference. The bad news thus far for Ohio is the injury to Ray and Owens last week. Ohio lost starting quarterback Fred Ray and running backs Stafford Owens in the first quarter against Northern Illinois, their status are questionable against UCF. Quarterback Fred Ray sprained his right (throwing) shoulder on the sixth play of the game and slotback Stafford Owens left later in the quarter with a sprained ankle. Ohio will count heavily on RB Chris Jackson to carry the ball on Saturday against UCF. Jackson rushed for 19 times and gained 103 yards in the last game. Ohio employed ten different players running the ball in the last game.
In stopping the Bobcats, a few of the Knights UCF will be counting on to stop Ohio's running game are DE Brent Bolar, DE Paul Carrington, LB James Cook, and LB Stanford Rhule. Emotions and inexperience might lead to some UCF mistakes. One only hopes that if there is a mistake, hopefully it won't be too much for the Knights to handle. Advantage: EVEN.
Ohio pass offense vs. UCF pass defense: The Ohio passing offense is ranked 106th nationally with an average of 152.4 yards per game this season. UCF faced a better passing offense before this game, which should help them a little against Ohio. The Bobcats are averaging 152.40 yards per game in passing coming into game. However, if the UCF safeties get caught ganging up against the option, the Bobcats could make them pay with big plays in the passing game. Obviously, the Ohio's passing game effectiveness depends largely on Fred Ray's health. UCF secondary have improved tremendously since the first two games. They held Buffalo to total of 55 yards in the second half last Saturday which is impressive. Stick with your men Knights and you'll come out victorious. Advantage: UCF.
Special Teams: Matt Prater had good games so far for the Knights. Matt Prater set a new UCF record with a 55.7 yardage per punt average vs. Virginia Tech. Prater is averaging 44.7 yards per punt and he rank 11th nationally. The main returning man, Tavaris Capers, Luther Huggins, and possibly true freshmen Brooks Turner are solid committee. The concern about UCF's kicking game is the kick protection. Although coach Joe Robinson has had quite a debut in 2003, there are rooms for improvement and the Knights should not be too cocky in this area just yet. Ohio's punting and kicking games are good. The Bobcats have some great return specialists in Ray Huston, Dion Byrum and Stafford Owens. UCF must keep Ohio from breaking a big one. Advantage: UCF.
Intangibles: This game will be important to Ohio and the Bobcats have nothing to lose, so they could be dangerous. On the other hand UCF's players have been hearing and reading comments like, "Geez, if we can BARELY beat FAU and Buffalo, how bad is Marshall and Miami (OH) are gonna drill us?" all week long. I've got a feeling that UCF's veteran players sent some loud and clear messages this week and the Knights will want to prove they are a good football team on Saturday. As a result, this game will mean even more to UCF. The Knights will want to make a statement on Saturday. Advantage: UCF.
PREDICTION: UCF won't reveal very much of its playbook again this week. However, the Knights will show the ability to run the ball as they will win the battles at the line of scrimmage. Look for Haynes and Brown to both gain over 50 yards on the ground, with one of them to top 100 yards. The wideouts will look very good at times and will make a mistake or two. The QB Rivera will complete 20-of-35 passes for 150 yards, including TDs to Capers and True freshman Mike Walker. Ohio's option attack will get the Bobcats on the scoreboard in the two quarters, but they won't get much after that. UCF will return a kick or a punt for a score. FINAL: UCF 28, Ohio 21.
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