Houston-UCF Preview

The Knights host the 15th-ranked Houston Cougars for homecoming. Draped in black, the Knights will be amped for a must-win conference game and the Cougars will also be bringing their "A game" as they need to win this game to stay atop their division.

UCF Knights vs. Houston Cougars

Location: Orlando, Florida (Bright House Networks Stadium)

Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

Records: UCF 5-4 (3-2 in C-USA), Houston 8-1 (4-1 in C-USA)

Team Overviews

UCF: It's a must win game for the Knights as they need to go undefeated the rest of the way and also need ECU to stumble along the way. UCF has been improving steadily through the season and some starters got to rest last week in a blowout loss to Texas so the team should be ready to do battle with Houston.

Houston: The cardiac cats have won nail bitters the past two weeks to remain the toast of the conference. The Cougars have a dynamic offense but a streaky defense and that could be the difference maker this week.

UCF Offense vs. Houston Defense

UCF: Brett Hodges and Brynn Harvey missed last week's game at Texas, leaving the backfield empty but freshman running back Jonathan Davis proved that the team had some depth behind its starters. Davis will split carries with Harvey this week and Hodges should be back under center in a pivotal matchup. The offensive line rotation is still up in the air and you may get another different lineup.

Houston: The Cougars might be able to light it up offensively but they are one of the worst teams in the nation on defense as they give up nearly 470 yards and 30 points per game. The unit isn't necessarily devoid of talent, as they have standout linebacker Marcus McGraw (95 total tackles) and outside backer/end Tyrell Graham (six sacks.) Houston uses a variety of defensive sets and will bring pressure from all different angles.

Key Matchup: UCF's interior guards vs. Houston's defensive tackles- The Cougars don't have a ferocious front four and UCF has been able to take advantage of smaller opponents at times this season but the guard play has been unstable as of lately. If UCF's starters (whether it's Cliff McCray and Abre Leggins or Steve Robinson and Chad Hounshell) play to their ability then they Knights can establish a strong run game, which will keep Houston's dynamic offense off the field.

UCF Defense vs. Houston Offense

UCF: UCF's front four will be crucial against Houston's tremendous passing offense. The Knights will try to get pressure without blitzing but that will be easier said than done against Case Keenum, who gets rid of the ball as quick as anyone UCF has seen in the past few years. The Knights will need their linebackers to be quick and cut off Houston's underneath patterns and the secondary must play its best game of the season. Houston will take shots down field early and often so the young secondary cannot give up big plays consistently.

Houston: Case Keenum is making a case in the Heisman race, as he's thrown for over 3,800 yards this season. Houston has an up-tempo offense and they just spread the ball around and utilize and abundance of speed. Keenum always keeps his eyes downfield and is also a running threat. His favorite target is James Cleveland, who has 74 receptions this season, 11 of which have gone for scores. Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier are also dynamic players that have helped this offense rank number one in the nation. The Cougars also can run the ball, as Bryce Beal and Charles Sims have taken advantage of a wide open field and have combined for over 1,000 yards rushing on the season.

Key Matchup: UCF's secondary vs. Houston's receivers- You can't hide your entire secondary so the youngsters in UCF's defensive backfield will have to grow up very soon. Josh Robinson and Kemal Ishmael keep improving but the true freshmen will be eventually asked to be more aggressive, as Keenum will find open receivers. The defensive backfield cannot get scorched but the DBs must also make some plays to give UCF a chance.

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