NCAA Football Weekly Picks: South Florida Bulls at UCF Knights

South Florida at UCF

Time: 7 PM CST (ESPN)

Spread: UCF -23.5

Total: 62

Odds c/o 5dimes

The UCF Knights won last week 34-31 over Tulane, after suffering its third loss of the season the week prior with a loss to Tulsa. The Knights close its season against cross-state rival South Florida at 7 PM (CST) on ESPN.

UCF enters as heavy 23.5-point favorites in the game, and the over/under is set at 62 points according to bookmaker 5dimes.

UCF

UCF had its two-season long win streak snapped this season with three losses, but the Knights still are set to finish in second place in the AAC-East. It will still draw a decent Bowl game, but no longer can it purport the notion it is suffering an eternal BCS-slump or snubbing. Three losses negate that, easily. Even so, UCF has been dominant for its 8-3 mark. The Knights win differential is +19.5 points, and it boasts a top-10 pass offense and top-25 rush offense. It is still a very dangerous football team, and with the right recruiting efforts it could return to its “undefeated” status, as long as it remains in the AAC anyway.

Knights’ starting QB Dillon Gabriel has been sensational this season. He has racked up 3,123 yards with 25 touchdowns and just seven picks. It levels out to an outstanding passer rating of 158.2, and his receivers have feasted. Gabriel Davis has been the biggest beneficiary with his 1,135 receiving yards on 64 receptions. No. 2 wideout Tre Nixon has 44 catches for 722 yards and four others have 100 yards or better on the season. UCF has totaled 32 receiving touchdowns while scoring the other 30 via the rush. That is a great balance.

The Knight’s lead rushers have been Otis Anderson, Bentavious Thompson, and Adrian Killins Jr. All three have topped 500 yards on the season, and UCF tallies a 5.0 yard-per-carry average as a team. Gabriel has not been great carrying out of the pocket with just 48 yards on 58 attempts, but a lot of these have just been QB scrambles and not designed rush plays, making it a bit more excusable.

USF

South Florida is 4-7 with a 2-5 mark in AAC play. It has dropped its last three games (to Temple, No. 17 Cincinnati, and No. 18 Memphis last week). The Bulls are No. 4 in the AAC-East, but it is behind a 4-3 Temple team it is accustomed to finishing higher than. USF will have its work cut out for it recruiting.

The Bulls have been mediocre in most aspects of football this season. It allows 28.5 points per game, but it scores just 24.3, and its rush attack is middle-of-the-pack at No. 64, while it ranks in the bottom fifth of all passing teams at 174.5 yards per game.

The Bulls have had its struggles in the pocket. Of its four utilized Abs (mostly Jordan McCloud and Blake Barnett), South Florida has thrown just 54 percent for completion and has eight interceptions on the season. McCloud has 12 touchdowns to six INTs, but he has been sacked 30 times for 165 lost yards. McCloud has some success as a rusher, with his 245 yards on 93 attempts and four touchdowns. Jordan Cronkite has largely carried the team with his 5 yards per, and 686 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Even so, USF is about average as a rushing team, in averaging 4.5 yards-per-carry.

The Bulls do have eight players with 100 or more receiving yards on the season, but the leader is tight end Mitchell Wilcox with just 334 yards on the year. Wilcox, Randall St. Felix, and Bryce Miller have all caught 20 passes or more and all total 200-plus yards. USF has 18 receiving touchdowns on the season and averages 11.4 yards-per-catch.

Field goal kicking has been a problem with Spencer Shrader and Coby Weiss combining to have hit just 50 percent, 7 of 14. There has not been a made field goal from beyond 40-yards the entire season for the Bulls.

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