Moneyline/Underdog Special: UCF’s Defense to Shut K-State Down

UCF offers good value including on the moneyline this week
The Kansas State Wildcats and Daniel Thomas welcome the Central Florida Knights to Manhattan, Kansas this Saturday. The Wildcats are off to a 3-0 start, while the Knights come in with a 2-1 record.

Kansas State opened as a 4 ½ point favorite, but the line has been steamed up to 7 points on the current college football point spreads. The betting public has been all over K-State, playing the home team at about 90%. But all things considered, Central Florida looks like a good underdog and might be worthy of a moneyline play.

Central Florida has 2 wins over subpar opponents (South Dakota and Buffalo), while their lone loss was at home against N.C. State, 28-21. The Knights gave the game away with their five turnovers. One interception was returned for a touchdown, another set up a short field and so did a fumble recovery by the Wolfpack. The Knights’ defense only gave up one legitimate scoring drive to Tom O’Brien’s team.

The Central Florida defense is clearly the strength of the team. They’re giving up only 262 yards per game, and are especially strong against the pass; teams are averaging 133 yards through the air and only 43.2% pass completion. Against the run, the Knights are holding opponents to 3.4 yards per carry.

The defense is likely the best in Conference USA, though the conference is generally known for its offense. Senior defensive end Bruce Miller had 61 tackles and 13 sacks last year, en route to earning C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. While Miller had a spectacular season, so did cornerback Josh Robinson. As a freshman last season, Robinson had 69 tackles and 6 ints, which earned him 1st Team All-America honors. The linebackers have 2 returning starters, along with 5th year senior Chance Henderson who was a 1st Team All-Conference performer in 2008, but missed all of last year with injury. Simply put, the Knights are stacked on defense.

The offense would be much better if Brynn Harvey hadn’t gone down with a knee injury. The junior tailback is expected to miss 2 more games. But sophomore Jonathan Davis is a capable replacement. The offense has gotten a boost from true freshman Jeff Godfrey, who seems to have taken over for Rob Calabrese. Godfrey is a talented, dual threat quarterback. He’s been fairly accurate and had 2 touchdown runs against N.C. State. The hogs up front have 4 starters from last year and most of their two-deep.

Kansas State’s offense can be summed up in two words: Daniel Thomas. Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing last season, and has picked up where he left off. Through 3 games he has 552 yards and 6 tds. But quarterback Carson Coffman has been average at best. With the Knights stingy pass defense, Thomas needs to have a monster game. But with Central Florida’s balance on defense, I think that will be a lot to ask.

The defense hasn’t been that good. On the ground, K-State has gotten gashed against mediocre competition (UCLA – 193, Missouri St. – 166, and Iowa St. – 171). The pass defense has solid numbers, but that’s in large part due to Kevin Prince and UCLA laying an egg. I don’t expect UCF to put up a lot of points, but I don’t think K-State will either.

This has the makings of a low scoring affair, and taking UCF with 7 points looks good. But the Knights are paying +240 on the moneyline. With a strong defense and an offense re-energized by a talented quarterback, playing UCF to win straight up offers a great return. Consider playing the Knights on the moneyline, or at least to cover the spread.

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