UCF (8-2) at Tulsa (8-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: Fox Sports Network. Home Record: UCF 4-1, Tulsa 5-0. Away Record: UCF 4-1, Tulsa 3-2. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 6-0, Tulsa 6-0. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: In what is very likely a preview of this season's Conference USA Championship game, the UCF Knights and Tulsa Golden Hurricane collide at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Both sides enter with identical 8-2 overall records with perfect 6-0 marks in conference play. A UCF win would clinch the East Division title for the Knights and give them homefield advantage for the Conference USA Championship game. Tulsa will clinch the West Division with a win, but not necessarily home field advantage for the title game.
This will be just the sixth meeting in the all-time series between these schools. Tulsa owns a 3-2 series lead. These teams have squared off in the C- USA Championship on two separate occasions. The Golden Hurricane earned a 44-27 victory in 2005 and the Knights took home the 2007 title with a 44-25 win.
The Knights enter on a six-game winning streak. They weathered a Texas-El Paso rally effort to defeat the Miners, 31-24, in the Lone Star State their last time out. Coach George O'Leary and his team have not lost since Sept. 29, when they were beat 21-16 at home by Missouri. UCF's only other lost came to Urban Meyer and Ohio State in Columbus.
Tulsa wisely scheduled a late season, non-conference matchup at Arkansas to kick off November. Although the Golden Hurricane had their seven-game winning streak snapped in their 19-15 loss to the Razorbacks, the defeat motivated the team to a 41-7 rout of Houston last week. Coach Bill Blankenship has compiled a 16-7 overall record in just under two seasons in Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane have taken down 17 of their last 18 C-USA rivals, with the only loss coming to the Chase Keenum and the No. 7 Houston Cougars in 2011.
The Knights have built an identity as a defensive-minded team. O'Leary's style of coaching requires UCF to have a solid rushing attack, a game managing quarterback, and control of field position.
Blake Bortles is an ideal QB for the Knights' system. In his first year as a full-time starter, he has amassed 2,199 yards, 17 touchdowns, and seven interceptions on 185-of-280 efficiency. He was mistake free versus UTEP with 214 yards and a touchdown through the air in addition to his two rushing scores.
UCF has a trio of effective wideouts in J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall, and Quincy McDuffie. Worton leads with 35 catches for 507 yards. Jeff Godfrey started at quarterback last season before moving to wideout in the spring. He has tallied three-straight games with multiple catches and made a touchdown grab twice during that span. Godfrey's quarterback experience makes him a valuable asset.
McDuffie made a big time impact on special teams by returning two kickoffs back to the house to power the rout of Marshall. No other player had returned two kickoffs for a touchdown in the same game in C-USA history.
The Knights' rushing attack features one of the most consistent rushers in the conference in Latavius Murray. The senior tailback has surpassed the century mark in four straight contests and scored 10 total TDs during that time.
Storm Johnson is second on the team with 452 yards and four TDs on 103 attempts, but he has only rushed the ball 11 times total in his past four games.
While O'Leary's offense is serviceable, his defense is the defining element of the team. The Knights lead the C-USA in total defense and scoring defense with averages of 343.9 allowed yards and 21.2 allowed points per contest. Ohio State is the only team to score 30 or more points in regulation versus the Knights this season and they held their opponent to 17 points in three straight games before allowing the Miners to produce 24 last week.
Senior defensive backs A.J. Bouye and Kemal Ishmael are playmakers for UCF. Both have two interceptions and Ishmael is leading the team with 83 total stops.
Tulsa has one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the country, ranking 24th with 37.2 ppg. It has been held under 20 points on just one occasion this season and surpassed the 40-point mark in five games.
The Golden Hurricane have found success behind a lethal rushing attack (244.6 ypg, 5.1 ypc). Ja'Terian Douglas (808 yards, six TDs) and Trey Watts (645 yards, three TDs) have both shown off tremendous vision and athletic ability while combining to serve as the offense's engine. Alex Singleton (132 carries, 572 yards) may not have as high a yards per carry average as Douglas or Watts, but his 18 rushing touchdowns give him the 10th most points in the nation.
With a run-first offense, Cody Green is purely a game manager. Although his 10 touchdowns-to-seven-interceptions ratio is not great considering his role, he is 11-2 in his career as a starter, which includes his 4-0 record at Nebraska.
Five players have at least 233 receiving yards, led by Keyarris Garrett (45 receptions, 558 yards, five TDs).
The Tulsa defensive unit is ranked right behind UCF in the C-USA rankings in both scoring defense (23.1 ppg) and total defense (373.1 ypg). The unit has made big plays in the backfield consistently with 85 tackles for loss, 39 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries.
DeAundre Brown has been one of the best linebackers in the country, filling up the stat sheet with 103 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and an interception. Senior DL Jared St. John is right behind Brown with seven sacks and Dexter McCoil has recorded a team-best four interceptions.
This is the most important game of the Conference USA regular so far. Something has got to give when these two undefeated rivals crash into each other. Since both teams have identical playing styles, this one will come down to turnovers and field position. The Golden Hurricane hold the edge due to their overwhelming homefield advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 21, UCF 17
11/14 10:38:02 ET