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Stanford vs. UCF Football Prediction and Preview

Stanford vs. UCF Football Prediction and Preview

Stanford vs. UCF Prediction and Preview

After a pair of easy wins against in-state opponents, No. 17 UCF will return to Spectrum Stadium to play Stanford on Saturday in what may be its toughest game of the season.

Through two games, the Knights have defeated Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic by a combined score of 110-14. UCF currently ranks fifth nationally in total offense and sixth nationally in total defense. The Knights have not lost a regular-season game since 2016.

Making the cross-country trip to face UCF will be Stanford. The Cardinal fell from the national rankings after a disappointing 45-20 defeat at USC. Stanford was less than stellar in its opener — a 17-7 home victory over Northwestern.

The contest in Orlando will be just the second meeting between the schools. Stanford won the first matchup in 2015 by a 31-7 score out in Palo Alto. That was the last time that the Knights played a school from the Pac-12.

Stanford at UCF

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET


Spread: UCF -7.5

When Stanford Has the Ball

Through two games, Stanford has been dismal offensively. The Cardinal currently rank 93rd nationally in total offense and dead last in the Pac-12. To this point, Stanford has scored just 37 points through two games, and seven of those came on a defensive fumble recovery for a touchdown on the final play of the opener against Northwestern.

With quarterback K.J. Costello out last week, Stanford turned to Davis Mills, who passed for 237 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, they were held scoreless over the game’s final 38 minutes. Costello will return to action this week for what will be his 26th career game.

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Running back Cameron Scarlett will play a key role for the Cardinal on Saturday. Scarlett leads the team with 179 yards rushing and 243 yards from scrimmage, but as a whole, Stanford is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Tight end Colby Parkinson (6-7) should be a tough cover for the UCF defense. The offensive line also suffered a significant blow with the loss of Walker Little for the year.

The seven points-per-game average allowed thus far by UCF ranks fifth in the entire country, but the competition has not been all that stiff. After holding Florida A&M under 100 yards of total offense in the opener, UCF yielded just 314 to FAU last week. The Knights finished with five sacks in the game and have seven total for the season.

Senior Brendon Hayes leads UCF with two sacks on the young season. Although he’s been quiet early on, safety Richie Grant is still one of the best players in the American Athletic Conference. Senior linebacker Nate Evans leads the team with 14 tackles.

When UCF Has the Ball

It would be hard for UCF to be more balanced offensively than it has been thus far. The Knights are averaging 325 yards per game on the ground and 309 through the air. To this point, four different running backs have more than 100 yards rushing.

Leading that charge is freshman Bentavious Thompson with 155 yards on just 13 carries — good for a ridiculous 11.9 yards per rush. Returnees Greg McCrae (149 yards rushing, 6.2 yards per carry, two touchdowns) and Adrian Killins Jr. (143 yards rushing, 6.2 yards per carry, two touchdowns) have nearly identical numbers through two contests. Junior Otis Anderson is also averaging more than 11 yards per carry on just 10 carries.

Despite the edge in experience for Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush, UCF turned to freshman and Hawaii native Dillon Gabriel at quarterback in Week 2. Gabriel’s completion percentage was not great, but he did average nearly 13 yards per pass attempt and more than 32 yards per completion. To this point in the season, Gabriel has six total touchdowns, five passing, and no interceptions. As was the case last season, Gabriel Davis is the top receiver for UCF with 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Stanford will try to avoid getting gashed by a true freshman quarterback for a second week in a row after giving up 45 points last week to Kevon Slovis and USC. The Cardinal typically are a very good defensive team. Junior cornerback Paulson Adebo is one of the best cover men in the entire country and leads Stanford with 13 tackles and an interception this year.

Linebackers Andrew Pryts and Casey Toohill are both very good players for the Cardinal defense. If Saturday’s contest is close, kicker Jet Toner could be a real difference-maker.

Final Analysis

Making a cross-country trip from Northern California to Central Florida won’t be easy for a Stanford team that has struggled on both sides of the ball so far this year. Offensively, UCF should feel more resistance than in recent weeks, but it’s questionable whether the Cardinal can score enough points to keep up. When it comes down to it, Stanford just has more glaring questions at this point than the Knights.

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Prediction: UCF 30, Stanford 17

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.