The undefeated UCF Knights (9-0) take the show on the road this Saturday for a matchup with the Temple Owls (5-5) in Philadelphia. Game time starts at noon EST from Lincoln Financial Field, with the game being featured on ESPNU.
Despite losing their last few spreads, the Knights have still carried on with their winning ways. QB McKenzie Milton has been as advertised all year, and the running game is getting into the act on weekly basis as well.
The 48.6 PPG they’ve scored is tops in college football by about a field goal per-game.
On the other side, their defense has taken a step back, but is still loaded with talent. If they’re able to get after the passer a little more, they will go back to having the same amount of disruption they had in early-season games.
Temple, on the other hand, is just now finding its offense. They have consecutive wins over Navy and Cincinnati, in which they scored a combined 69 points. They needed it, because their defense clearly doesn’t have the talent it had last year. Still, they’re in contention for a bowl game with two weeks left.
But they’ll come in as 14-point favorites for this AAC matchup.
This is an interesting spread for several reasons. First off, Vegas is clearly trending away from the crazy UCF spreads it had started to put up, and for good reason. Secondly, it’s interesting to see how much the weather is involved in this spread. It will be hovering around 50 degrees at kickoff, with a little rain mixed in.
Another factor is Temple’s back-to-back wins over Navy and Cinci. Combined with underwhelming spread performances the last two weeks from the Knights, this spread has drawn much closer than expected before those games. But a little rain and a little momentum for the opponents isn’t going to come close to taking down this UCF team.
The only thing that can stop the Knights is the impending matchup with USF the Friday after. It will be for the right to go to the AAC Championship. But knowing Scott Frost, he’ll have his guys ready to jump over this trap. After all, a UCF loss at any point could ruin their New Year’s Six bowl chances.
Look for the Knights to pass another road test, with the passing game still firing on all cylinders (1,105 yards over last three games). McKenzie Milton has lit up opponents left and right. Go up and down the Owls’ schedule, and Notre Dame and USF are the only ones who compare with QB play and offensive firepower. The Owls lost those other two games by a combined score of 92-23.
UCF’s top scoring offense should be able to take out a middle-of-the-road Temple defense with ease. A great balance on offense will allow them to keep stacking the points up. But in terms of defense, they’ve fallen off a bit.
They haven’t held a team under 20 points since September, but it shouldn’t matter against Temple. The Owls have the 97th-ranked scoring offense.
So, given the conditions, UCF shouldn’t be expected to score their average of 49 points. But don’t expect them to need much to cover. Temple has had a couple good offensive games against deteriorating defenses, but the Knights have too much speed on defense for Temple to take advantage of their recent shortcomings.
The Knights will take this spread, perhaps in a landslide.