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UCF Knights vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction

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Week 1 could not have gone much better for the Michigan Wolverines (1-0), as they were in cruise control for much of the afternoon, defeating Hawaii with ease in the 63-3 blowout victory. Starting quarterback Wilton Speight rebounded from an interception on his first throw of the game, completing 10 of his next 12 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

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The Michigan defense looked equally as impressive, returning two interceptions for touchdowns and holding the Warriors to just 1-for-11 on third down.

Saturday could pose a different challenge for the Wolverines’ defense as the UCF Knights roll into Ann Arbor after racking up 462 yards of total offense in their 38-0 win over South Carolina State. First-year head coach Scott Frost has installed a new no-huddle offense that will need to move the ball some in order to keep this game competitive into the second half.

UCF at Michigan

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

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Spread: Michigan -34.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The Starting Job Belongs to Wilton Speight
Jim Harbaugh was able to hide his decision about the starting quarterback all the way up until Michigan’s first drive last week, and after one game, it looks like he made the correct choice. Following a poor decision on his first throw that resulted in an interception, Speight went on to toss three touchdowns in the first half, and more importantly, play mistake-free football with the game well in hand. Surprisingly though, backup John O’Korn received very little playing time even with the Wolverines up by such a wide margin, leading some to think this competition is all but over at this point. With the way Michigan’s defense is flying around and a rejuvenated rushing attack (more on that later), Speight will not be asked to do too much as the Wolverines navigate through the early portion of the schedule.

2. Oregon 2.0?
Through much of the first half last week, UCF did not resemble anything like the high-powered offense Scott Frost used to lead as the offensive coordinator at Oregon. The Knights managed just four field goals against FCS foe South Carolina State before a late second quarter touchdown from quarterback Justin Holman blew the game open. UCF dominated the second half, racking up 466 total yards on the night, including 201 yards on the ground. It is a giant leap going from facing South Carolina State at home to the Big House, but if the Knights are to have any shot at pulling the upset, controlling the clock with said ground game will be imperative. 

3. Freshman Phenom
True freshman Chris Evans had only eight carries this past Saturday, but made the most of his opportunities with 112 yards and two touchdowns, including a 43-yard scamper right through the heart of the Hawaii defense. With that run, Evans became only the third freshman in Michigan football history to top the 100-yard mark in his debut. Throughout fall camp, Evans was mentioned multiple times by the coaching staff as one of the possible impact performers coming from this freshmen class and it was evident why right from the onset. Evans provides a different skill set than starter De’Veon Smith, or even backup Ty Isaac, who are more between-the-tackles-type backs while Evans is a former track athlete that brings some much-needed burst to the position. Whether or not the score gets out of hand, expect Evans to see a handful of touches yet again on Saturday.

Final Analysis

We can try and come up with all of the wacky and insane ways in which UCF can hang with the Wolverines, but it would just be a waste of time. The Knights will be a dangerous team to contend with once first-year head coach Scott Frost brings in the recruits to run the up-tempo offense to his liking, but that will not happen overnight. Look for Michigan’s defense to force multiple turnovers like the Wolverines did against Hawaii and give UCF its first loss of the season.

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Prediction: Michigan 41, UCF 13

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.