UCF Knights vs. Rice Owls
Location: Houston, Texas (Rice Stadium)
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
Records: UCF 3-3 (1-2 Conference USA), Rice 0-7 (0-3 Conference USA)
UCF: The Knights are coming off of a disappointing loss to Miami a week ago. The Knights hung tough against the top 10 program, but a questionable option call when UCF was on Miami's two stalled the Knights' drive and prevented the team from cutting the game within a score in the third quarter. Now the Knights must rebound to keep the season afloat.
Rice: Whenever you're winless this late in the season there isn't a whole lot to hang your hat on. The Owls haven't finished within 16 points of any opponent this year and are giving up a nation-high 45 points per game so it's safe to say that they are desperately searching for some kind of momentum.
UCF Offense vs. Rice Defense
UCF: With the 106th ranked offense in the nation, there seems to be a little frustration brewing amongst some of UCF's defensive players. The Knights have definitely shown signs of improvement on offense this year but the inability to score in the red zone has probably cost the team at least two games. Brett Hodges had his moments against Miami but he needs to become more consistent in the second half of the season. The offensive line continues to improve and they'll go against a significantly weaker defensive front this week. Brynn Harvey and A.J. Guyton both need to touch the ball more as they have emerged as some of the team's best play makers.
Rice: The Owls run a 4-2-5 defense and try to utilize their speed to their advantage but the problem with that specific defense is that it can leave you susceptible to strong running attacks and Rice has found that out the hard way. Allowing over 200 rushing yards per game, the Owls have been hard-pressed to stop the run and their pass defense hasn't been much better. Andrew Sendejo, the team's free safety, is Rice's leading tackler and that's never a good sign. Defensive end Scott Solomon has been a rare standout defensively for Rice as he's come up with four sacks on the year and has also logged 35 tackles.
Key Matchup: Brynn Harvey vs. Rice's safeties- The Knights will be able to move Rice upfront, make no mistake about it. The key will be how Harvey hits the holes and what he can do when he gets to the second level. Rice has two strong safeties that can fly around, especially Travis Bradshaw, and they will come at different angles to try and stop Harvey.
UCF Defense vs. Rice Offense
UCF: For the second year in a row now, it has been UCF's defense that has been the team's rallying point. The Knights' secondary still is a concern but the play of freshman Kemal Ishmael has enabled Derrick Hallman to move to linebacker and now the team has two extraordinary playmakers at linebacker with Hallman and Lawrence Young. The Knights were phenomenal up front against Miami as Torrell Troup and Travis Timmons shut down the running lanes and David Williams, Bruce Miller, Jarvis Geathers and Darius Nall all pressured the quarterback. They will be licking their chops again this week against a Rice team that likes to regularly throw the ball out of the gun.
Rice: Injuries and inconsistencies have prevented the Owls from getting settled at quarterback but it appears that sophomore Nick Fanuzzi will return from injury and get the start. The Alabama transfer has a big body and can hang tough in the pocket or use his feet to pick up yards. He's thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions this year and has been fairly efficient as a passer. Toren Dixon will be Fanuzzi's primary target and he brings consistency (32 consecutive games with a reception), size (6'2", 212 lbs.) and production (54 receiving yards per game.) Rice has taken a by-committee approach with several scat-backs like Jeremy Goodson and Shane Turner. Charles Ross is a big back who might also get some reps.
Key Matchup: Fanuzzi vs. UCF's defensive ends: The Knights cannot have a letdown off the edges this game. Fanuzzi is a player who can really hurt you if you let him get in a rhythm so the Knights must collapse the pocket on him regularly.
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