No. 11 Knights look to avenge last season's upset loss to Golden Hurricane
Revenge will be on the mind for UCF on Saturday as the Knights aim to avenge last season's loss to Tulsa. Through two games, UCF has looked nearly unstoppable as it gets set to play its home opener on Saturday.
The Knights are off to a 2-0 start and ranked No. 11 in the country. Tulsa is 0-1, but the Golden Hurricane fought valiantly in their opener. Against a ranked Oklahoma State team in Stillwater, Tulsa actually took a lead into the final quarter before falling, 16-7.
UCF has experienced plenty of success over the last four years, but Tulsa is coming off a 4-8 season. One of those wins was a 34-31 upset of the Knights. Tulsa has won the last three meetings in the series.
Tulsa at No. 11 UCF
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: UCF -21.5
When Tulsa Has the Ball
The Tulsa offense ranked near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference last season when it came to points per game. The Golden Hurricane managed just a touchdown in the opener, but senior quarterback Zach Smith has a ton of experience and does a nice job minimizing mistakes. On the outside, Tulsa has a nice playmaking duo in Josh Johnson and Keylon Stokes. Stokes finished with more than 1,000 receiving yards last season.
Running back Deneric Prince ran well in the opener with 82 yards on 14 carries. He's been tasked with filling the large void left behind by last season's leading rusher Shamari Brooks. Brooks is just 1,218 yards away from becoming Tulsa's all-time leading rusher, but suffered a knee injury prior to the opener against Oklahoma State. Big plays are probably a necessity for Tulsa to pull the upset on Saturday.
The UCF defense has allowed more than 450 yards in each of its first two games, but so far, the Knights are the most opportunistic team in the country. Through two games, UCF has forced nine turnovers. Nationally, only Syracuse has generated more takeaways. In last season's meeting, UCF was minus-three in the turnover battle.
On the young season, junior linebacker Eriq Gilyard leads the team with 16 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles. UCF hasn't generated much pressure up front, but the secondary is very good. Safety Richie Grant is one of the better players in the country at his position. Grant currently has 12 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Aaron Robinson is probably the Knights' best cover man.
When UCF Has the Ball
Through two games, the UCF offense has looked nearly unstoppable. Averaging 50 points per game, the Knights lead the nation in total offense. Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel has inserted himself into the early Heisman Trophy race. Gabriel has passed for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns in consecutive games. Gabriel ranks fourth nationally in passing yards, third in passing yards per game, and second in touchdown passes.
Gabriel Davis, now a rookie with the NFL's Buffalo Bills, looked like he would leave a huge void at wide receiver, but so far, Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson have been up to the task for UCF. Through two games, those two have combined for 545 yards receiving and four touchdowns. UCF has one of the deepest stables of running backs in the country with Greg McCrae, Otis Anderson and Bentavious Thompson.
The Tulsa defense got off to a promising start, holding Oklahoma State to just 16 points and fewer than 300 yards of offense. The Golden Hurricane lived in the backfield against All-American running back Chuba Hubbard and Oklahoma State. Tulsa finished with six sacks against the Cowboys and 14 tackles for a loss. Last season, Tulsa finished with six sacks in the 34-31 upset of UCF.
Junior linebacker Zaven Collins is probably the face of the defense for Tulsa. In the opener, Collins totaled three sacks and four tackles for a loss. Linebacker Grant Sawyer added 3.5 tackles for loss. Allie Green IV had an interception. Up front, Jaxon Player is the guy to watch for Tulsa.
The Tulsa defense impressed in the team's opener, but slowing UCF down on Saturday will be a tall, tall task. UCF has scored at will against its first two opponents and has put up at least 30 points in 40 of its last 41 games. When all is said and done, the Golden Hurricane won’t have nearly enough offense to keep pace with the Knights. This one is also at the Bounce House (formerly known as Spectrum Stadium) where UCF has won 21 straight games.
Prediction: UCF 41, Tulsa 21
Podcast: CFB Week 5 Preview + Predictions
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.
(Dillon Gabriel photo courtesy of UCF Athletics)