What to Watch for on Offense for SMU
Running Game. With Prescott Line coming off his best game and Garrett Gilbert looking like he will not be able to start, it will be on Line to help Neal Burcham out with another solid performance. Conditions are going to be rough on the players on Saturday so Line will have to keep his balance in the icy conditions and be patient if he expects to make anything happen on the ground. Another wild card will be Kevin Pope, who played both ways a little bit last week and in his final game in Ford Stadium and quite possibly his career, expect him to play his heart out.
What to Watch for on Offense for UCF
Balanced Attack. June Jones called UCF quarterback Blake Bortles one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, and it's true. Bortles' efficiency and leadership have helped UCF get into the position of winning the AAC Championship this weekend. His ability to spread the ball around and to also have nice support from his running game, make the UCF offense lethal as long as it doesn't turn the ball over. If Bortles can complete the short passes in the cold and be efficient, along with a good ground game from Storm Johnson, SMU's defense will be in trouble early.
What to Watch for on Defense for SMU
Defensive line. The SMU defensive line has to be the area where the defense needs to step up the most. With the long passing game likely out of the plans for both teams, the defensive line will need to disrupt the UCF blocking schemes to allow the linebackers to run and make plays on the UCF backs and short passes. If the defensive line can get pressure on Bortles to knock him off his game that will go a long way to helping the team go for the upset.
What to Watch for on Defense for UCF
Linebackers. Terrance Plummer leads the way on defense for UCF with 90 tackles, eight for loss and two sacks. Plummer flies around and makes some big plays for the UCF defense, but the other linebackers are solid with Troy Gray, who is smaller than Plummer, also has 55 tackles on the year and is quickier as well. If the linebackers can cover SMU's slot receivers, Gilbert's and Burcham's top targets may be taken from him early. The linebackers will also be key to trying to make SMU one-dimensional if they can shut down the run.
Key to the Game: Turnovers. SMU has struggled with the turnover margin this year, and UCF is coming off a game where they turned the ball over five times. SMU had two interceptions last week and even though it will be tougher this week, SMU must force UCF to turn the ball over.
Prediction: UCF wins, 24-21.
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