Conference USA Betting Preview: Central Florida Knights at Alabama-Birmingham Blazers

Central Florida Knights at Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama
Thursday, October 20, 2011, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS College Sports
Opening Line: UCF -14
Current Line: UCF -16
Opening Total: 43 1/2
Current Total: 45
Opening Money Line: UCF -600 / UAB +450
Current Money Line: UCF -800 / UAB +550

The 0-6 UAB Blazers look for their first win of the season at home against Central Florida. The Knights are 16 point favorites.

The 0-6 UAB Blazers, coached by Neil Callaway, look for their first win of the season Thursday night against 3-3 Central Florida. The Blazers are one of three winless teams in FBS along with New Mexico and Florida Atlantic. UAB has losses at Florida 39-0, East Carolina 28-23, Troy 24-23, and last week at Tulsa 37-20, along with home losses against Tulane 49-10 and Mississippi St 21-3. UCF is coached by George O’Leary. The Knights were predicted to contend for the C-USA title with Houston, but are underachieving with a .500 record. The Knights are undefeated at home, but winless on the road. UCF has wins over Charleston Southern 62-0, Boston College 30-3, and Marshall 16-6. The Knights have losses to Florida International 17-10, BYU 24-17, and last week at SMU 38-17. UCF leads the series 7-1 against UAB including 42-7 last year in Orlando. The Knights are 4-0 all time in Birmingham.

Last week, Central Florida went on the road to  SMU as a 3.5 point underdog on the college football betting line. SMU jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead and went on to an easy 38-17 win. UCF scored early in the fourth to pull within 24-10, but SMU scored 27 seconds later to go up by 21.  SMU was actually up by 28 before UCF scored a late touchdown. The Knights had 459 total yards including 349 passing yards, and 25 first downs. UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey was 23/32 passing for 231 yards, and a touchdown pass, along with 12 carries for 46 yards. Blake Bortles also took some snaps and 9/12 for 118 yards and a touchdown pass. The Knights had no turnovers in the loss.  SMU had 440 total yards with 358 passing yards and 16 first downs. SMU quarterback J.J. McDermott threw two touchdown passes and an interception in the win. It was the first time all season, UCF had given up a passing touchdown.

UCF is averaging 421.7 yards a game including 237.7 passing yards and 184 rushing yards. The Knights score 25.3 points a game. Central Florida has 9 turnovers and has allowed 16 sacks this season. The Knights are 42/95 on third and fourth down conversions, and 23/29 scoring in the red zone with 17 touchdowns. UCF has a top ten defense nationally allowing 221.3 total yards a game including 143.2 passing yards and 78.7 rushing yards a game. The Knights are allowing 14.7 points a game. UCF has forced 7 turnovers and 7 sacks this season. Knight opponents are 24/89 on third and fourth down conversions, and 9/11 scoring in the red zone with 6 touchdowns. The Knights have one defensive touchdown this season, but have given up 4 on defense and special teams.

Godfrey is 96/141 passing for 1,118 yards and 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 66 carries 228 yards and 8 touchdown runs. Bortles is 21/27 passing 308 yards and the touchdown he threw against SMU. Running back Brynn Harvey has 82 carries for 392 yards, and no touchdowns, along with 10 catches for 80 yards. Ronnie Weaver has 44 carries, 201 yards, and a touchdown, along with 2 catches fro 15 yards. Latavius Murray has 39 carries, 167 yards and 4 touchdown runs, along with 8 catches for 83 yards. Five Knight receivers have at least 13 receptions, but no one has more than 19 or 292 yards. A.J. Guyton, Joshua Reese, Adam Nissley, Quincy McDuffie, and J.J. Worton all have significant catches, along with the running backs. Kickers Nick Cattoi and Shawn Moffitt split the kicking duties. Cattoi is 9/9 on extra points and 5/7 on field goals with a long of 36 yards. Moffitt is also 9/9 on extra points and 1/3 on field goals with a long of 36 yards. Linebacker Jonathan Davis is questionable with a head injury for the UAB game.

Last week, Alabama-Birmingham was a 21.5 point underdog at Tulsa. UAB was actually up 17-10 early in the second quarter but Tulsa outscored them 27-3 from that point on to win 37-20, but college football handicappers who bet UAB were happy with the 4th straight cover for the Blazers. UAB had 379 total yards including 298 passing yards and 19 first downs. Blazer quarterback Bryan Ellis was 20/42 passing for 280 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 two interceptions in the loss. Receiver JaMarcus Nelson had 2 catches for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns. The game was sloppy on both sides with 6 turnovers (4 by Tulsa) and 13 penalties (8 by UAB). Tulsa had 559 total yards including 218 rushing yards and 30 first downs.

As you might expect from an 0-6  team, UAB ranks near the bottom of the country in all major offensive and defensive categories. The Blazers are averaging 313.3 yards a game including 209.7 passing yards and 103.7 rushing yards. UAB is scoring 13.2 points a game. The Blazers have allowed 6 sacks and have 12 turnovers this season. UAB is 27/93 on third and fourth down conversions, and 10/15 scoring in the red zone with 3 touchdowns. The Blazers are allowing 514.8 yards a game including 292.2 passing yards and 222.7 rushing yards. UAB is giving up 33 points a game. The Blazers have forced 14 turnovers and 6 sacks. UAB opponents are 39/83 on third and fourth down conversions, and 25/31 scoring in the red zone with 20 touchdowns. UAB has 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns but has given up 2. That is pretty remarkable when you consider the Blazers only have 8 total touchdowns this season.

Ellis is 67/127 passing for 743 yards 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions along with 11 carries for 11 yards. Ellis is questionable for the UCF game. He missed 2 other games earlier in the season. Back-up Jonathan Perry is 47/96 passing for 515 yards, and 2 interceptions, along with 32 carries, 86 yards and a touchdown. Running back Pat Shed has 60 carries, 223 yards, and a touchdown, along with 23 catches for 146 yards. Greg Franklin has 20 carries for 129 yards, along with 8 catches for 70 yards. Receiver Jackie Williams has 33 catches, and 321 yards. Nick Adams and Patrick Hearn also get significant catches. Remarkably, the 2 touchdown catches by Nelson in the last game were the first 2 of the season for the Blazers. Kicker Ty Long is 7/7 on extra points and and 8/10 on field goals with a long of 49 yards.

UAB is 4-2 against the spread this season, and 5 of the 6 have gone under the total. UCF is 2-4 ATS and 5 of the 6 have gone under the total. The Knights have won and covered two straight in the series and both games have gone over. UCF is 21-10 ATS in the last 3 seasons, including 15-6 as a favorite, 14-5 against conference opponents, and 17-5 with 6 days or fewer rest, and 8-2 following a straight up win, 10-3 versus teams with losing records, 10-4-1 after failing to cover in the previous game, 5-2 in October, 1-4 in the last 5 road games, and 0-4 ATS in the last 4 overall. The Blazers are 0-4 ATS following a straight up loss, as an underdog, as an underdog of 10.5 points or greater, and overall, 6-0 in October, 5-1 following a cover, 18-7-1 as a home dog, 2-5 in their last 7 conference games, and on turf, 1-4-1 ATS in Thursday games, and 1-4 ATS at home.

Both these teams have played some close games recently. I don’t expect that to continue, as Central Florida should dominate against the hapless Blazers. I know Central Florida hasn’t won on the road this season, but UAB is one of the worst teams in the country. I like the Knights to cover and the game to go under the total.

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