5 Things to Watch: Central Florida

Miami and Central Florida kick off today at 3:45pm EST. It is a pivotal game in Miami's season as a win brings them back to .500 and gives them a little confidence under their belts beating an up-and-coming program in the state. Read on for Larry Cole's five key storylines in the game.

1. Third Down Offense AND Defense
Consider this 1A and 1B. Make no mistake about it, the Hurricanes have real issues on both offense and defense on third downs. Averaging only 37% converting on offense and allowing opponents a whopping 50% coversion rate on third downs, including a 5-for-6 effort by Florida State on third-and-long (10+ yards) situations. The Hurricane pass rush is also now down one, as Eric Moncur will be sidelined for the rest of the season, which will put a lot of pressure on the young defensive ends of the Hurricanes to create more rush on the edges. On offense, the Hurricanes have suffered from a bad case of the dropsies this season by experienced pass catchers and a lack of execution on first and second downs and untimely penalties that have left Miami in third-and-long situations often.
Why you need to watch? This is the key of today's football game. Miami has struggled in both areas and need to turn it around very quickly if they hope to make a bowl game in 2008.

2. Miami's Offensive Line
Miami's most heralded and experienced unit entering the 2008 season has disappointed this season with inconsistent play. The line averages well over 300-pounds across the line and has had the physical advantage against most defensive front sevens, but haven't done it for four quarters which has been a problem for the offense in general in remaining consistent. UCF has the 46th nationally ranked team in sacks, 20th in tackles for loss, and 26th in rush defense. Central Florida can play very well upfront with pass rush also coming from the linebackers as Lawrence Young and Derrick Hallman are amongst the team leaders in tackles for loss and sacks.
Why you need to watch? Confidence will be key for a Hurricanes line that physically can beat up UCF's front four.

3. Adjustments
If the Hurricanes struggle or get down early, watching the coaching staff make adjustments on the field will determine the outcome in this game. They were able to do it versus Florida state, but not against North Carolina, which were tales of two halves in each game.

4. Miami passing game v. the UCF defensive backs
Miami's passing offense ranks 104th in the country and UCF's pass defense ranks 102nd in the country. Something will have to give. UCF's defensive backs were heralded entering the season but not have had a good season. Miami's offense is only mildly improved from last years poor effort. The experience factor could come into play here as UCF will field four seniors at defensive back while the Hurricanes feature three true freshmen wide outs expected to see ample time. QB Robert Marve will again be a focal point after throwing three interceptions last week against Florida State.
Why you have to watch? It is the matchup of the game and something will have to give.

5. Joe Burnett Burnett will be the best pro prospect on the field Saturday afternoon. Oddly enough, he plays for UCF and not Miami. The 5-foot-11, 185 pound corner nearly bolted early to the NFL where he would have been a first day pick and entered the season as a potential All-American corner and returnman. This season, he is one of the better returnmen in the country scoring on a 91 yard kickoff return while averaging 29 yards per return on kickoffs and over 18 yards per return on punts.
Why you have to watch? Burnett is an electric player on special teams and could turn the tide of the game. He is also a top corner in the country. There aren't too many games in recent memory where Miami can say they've played a team the caliber of UCF and not have the best pro potential player on the field...this one is it. Watch out for Burnett.


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