NCAA Football AAC Picks and Odds: Houston Cougars at Central Florida Knights

(Photo Credit: UCF Football, 2014)

Houston at UCF

Time: 11 AM CST (ESPN2)

Spread: UCF -22

Total: 71

Odds c/o 5dimes

UCF may have ended a two-plus season win streak, but the Knights are still 6-2 and in second place in the AAC. It will host the Houston Cougars as heavy 22-point favorites in Saturday’s college football action. The game kicks off at 11 AM CST and will air on ESPN2.

UCF

UCF lost to both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati this season, but it won its last two games over Eastern Carolina and Temple in convincing fashion. It outscored the teams 104-49. Now, UCF returns home after beating Temple on the road by a 63-21 count. The Knights rank No. 5 in the nation in scoring at 46.6 points per game while limiting opponents to just 21.6 per. UCF ranks No. 8 in rushing yardage at 327.5 per contest while ranking No. 17 in passing at 233.9 yards per. It is a very potent offense and a stingy defense, and despite the metric dominance, the Knights are not ranked currently.

UCF will conclude its regular season with three more non-ranked teams in Tulsa, Tulane, and South Florida. While wins over all three would set the Knights up for a nice Bowl appearance, it might finish the season outside of the top-25 in AP Polls, which has to feel like a setback for a program that (however erroneously) considered itself repeating National Champs.

The Knights have got a fairly good season from QB Dillion Gabriel. He has thrown for 2,218 yards on 59 percent passing with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He has also been sacked less than two times per game, losing just an average of 10 yards per game on 1.6 sacks. His passer rating is 168.2.

The top four running backs all have done major damage for the Knights, and UCF averages 5.3 yards-per-carry as a team. Otis Anderson leads the team in attempts (76) and yardage (513) but ranks just No. 4 in touchdowns with three. Greg McCrae has 401 yards on 72 carries with a team-best six touchdowns. Gabriel has 34 attempts for negative eight yards, but he had two touchdown rushes this season and UCF has 22 rushing TDs as a team.

UCF’s top receiver has been Gabriel Davis. He has 50 catches for 916 yards and 10 touchdowns, all of which are team-highs. Tre Nixon is No. 2 in catches with 30 for 504 yards and five touchdowns. UCF has averaged 16.4 yards-per-catch and has 26 TDs on the season. Placekicker Dylan Barnas has hit 45 of 46 PATs and 8 of 9 field goals. He has completed a long-kick of 43-yards but is likely good for more distance given his accuracy from 40-plus (2 of 2).

HOU

The Houston Cougars are 3-5 and in fifth place in the AAC West. It was defeated 31-34 by No. 16 SMU last week, and it knocked off UConn before that. The Cougars are 2-2 SU on the road this season and it concludes its season with AP-ranked Memphis, Tulsa, and Navy. Houston will need to win at least three of its final four to have a good shot at a Bowl appearance.

The Cougars have been good rushing this season with 206.8 yards per game, ranking No. 27, but its pass offense generates just 201.4 yards per game and ranks No. 97. Even so, Houston scores 30.9 points per game while holding its opponents to just a tad more, at 31.1 per game. A negative 0.2 differential has resulted in a sub .500 record, as it is.

The rush game is bolstered by having five successful ball carriers. No. 1 running back Kyle Porter has 479 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback D’Eriq King has 55 rushes for 312 yards and six touchdowns. Patrick Carr is the No. 2 RB with 6.4 yards-per-carry on his 47 rushes, while No. 3 back Mulbah Car adds another 243 yards on his 33 carries and a team-best 7.4 yards-per-carry.

Houston averages 5.3 yards-per-carry as a team with 15 rushing touchdowns on the season. It has scored 13 TDs via the pass, and Marquez Stevenson is the big damage doer there. He has 34 catches for 656 yards and six touchdowns. All are team highs.

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