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NCAAF Team Report - Central Florida - INSIDE SLANT
There's a lot on the line Saturday afternoon in Orlando. UCF and Houston enter this meeting at the Bright House Networks Stadium as the last teams in the American Athletic Conference that are still undefeated in league play. The winner of this head-to-head contest will have the inside track on the league title, and an automatic spot in a BCS bowl.
That'd be a huge feat for either team, but it may end up off the table if either squad stumbles here.
Coming out of its third and final bye week of the season, UCF should be well-rested and well-prepared to take on the Cougars.
"We keep telling everybody and preaching to the team, it's another chance to move closer to our goal and that's winning the conference championship," UCF offensive line coach Brent Key told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's another step toward accomplishing our goal, another big game for us and a chance for us to be up against ? an opponent with the same record as us."
A BCS bid would be yet another accomplishment for a UCF team that's achieved a slew of noteworthy firsts already through the first seven games of the 2013 season. UCF is 19th in The Associated Press Top 25, its highest ranking ever. UCF also has notched its first win over a Big Ten team (beating Penn State on the road), and beating a team ranked in the Top 10 for the first time (by virtue of its win at then-unbeaten Louisville on Oct. 11). The Golden Knights, with a 6-1 record, already have guaranteed themselves bowl eligibility for the fourth time in a five-year span and the sixth time in the past nine seasons.
Those feats have earned UCF coach George O'Leary notice, as he was named to the watch list for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award on Nov. 1.
O'Leary didn't like the idea of his team having so many breaks when he first saw the 2013 schedule, but he admitted it's come in handy, especially for a UCF squad that has fewer seniors than any other Football Bowl Subdivision program.
"It's worked out well for us, especially when you're playing at home," O'Leary told reporters. "We get a chance to catch up on things academically, injury-wise and in the weight room."
O'Leary and company arguably needed the extra time to prepare for Houston, which has the most prolific scoring offense in The American with a 41.1-point average.
UCF is no slouch on the offense end either, with 10 players scoring a touchdown at least once through the first seven games of the season. Five different Golden Knights have scored at least three touchdowns already this season.
NCAAF Team Report - Central Florida - NOTES, QUOTES
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Blake Bortles enters the week eighth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passer rating (167.5), but his 238.43 QB rating in UCF's blowout win over Connecticut on Oct. 19 was the sixth-highest ever posted by a UCF quarterback in a single game. Bortles also ranks 18th nationally in completion percentage (67.2) and 42nd or better nationally in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
--RB Storm Johnson didn't run the ball much against Connecticut but he's still had an outstanding season, racking up 12 total touchdowns -- nine rushing and three receiving. Johnson is on pace for 17 rushing touchdowns in 2013, which should stand as the second-highest total in a single season in the history of the program.
--PK Shawn Moffitt was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the top kicker in the nation. Moffitt is perfect on field-goal attempts through his first nine tries, including a career long of 50 yards, and he's gone 28-of-28 on extra-point tries thus far this season.
SERIES HISTORY: UCF leads the series with Houston by a 3-1 margin, with all four prior meetings taking place when the two teams were colleagues in Conference USA. Three of those four meetings have been decided by seven points per less, but this is the first head-to-head game since 2010.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some of them were dressed up for Halloween already today. In a uniform, acting like a player." -- UCF coach George O'Leary, after a practice on Halloween during the bye week
NCAAF Team Report - Central Florida - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the run offense: UCF has gone 17 consecutive games with at least one rushing touchdown. The Golden Knights have great flexibility in their ground game, using former QB turned receiver Jeff Godfrey in their variation of the Wildcat package or using WR/KR Rannell Hall on sweeps and reverses.
Scouting the pass offense: UCF has not allowed a sack in its past two games against Louisville and Connecticut, the first time the program went back-to-back games without a sack since 2003. Godfrey had three touchdown catches against Connecticut, one shy of the single-game school record, equaling his entire TD total from the previous season.
Scouting the run defense: UCF held Connecticut to 91 yards rushing, and has allowed 104.3 yards on the ground per game in the past three contests against Memphis, Louisville and UConn. Houston has two backs in the top 10 in the American Athletic Conference in rushing, joining Louisville as the only other team in the AAC to achieve that statistical status.
Scouting the pass defense: Houston freshman QB John O'Korn has been a revelation, racking up 2,121 yards and 22 touchdowns against four interceptions thus far this season. O'Korn must account for UCF freshman DB Jacoby Glenn, who has 10 pass break-ups and an interception through seven games and is on pace to break up 19 passes in 2013.
Scouting the special teams: PK Shawn Moffitt is in his second career streak with at least nine straight field goals made. Punter Caleb Houston averages 43.7 yards per attempt, which would rank among the national leaders but with only 23 punts he doesn't have the minimum number of attempts to qualify.
--LB Chequan Burkett had shoulder surgery during the bye week and is done for the season. He hadn't played since Sept. 28.
--DL Jaryl Mamea has started the past two games, amassing seven tackles and one stop for yardage with a quarterback hurry this far this season.