UCF (7-2) at Texas-El Paso (2-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Bowl (51,500) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: Fox College Sports. Home Record: UCF 4-1, UTEP 2-2. Away Record: UCF 3-1, UTEP 0-5. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 5-0, UTEP 1-4. Series Record: UCF leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights try to remain perfect in league action as they invade the Sun Bowl for a Conference USA battle with the Texas-El Paso Miners.
UCF is the only remaining team in the East Division without a C-USA loss. The Knights picked up their fifth win in row last week with an impressive 42-17 victory over SMU in Orlando. UCF has outscored its previous three opponents by a combined total of 131-51. Their only losses on the season came courtesy of Ohio State (31-16) and Missouri (21-16). UCF was hit with a bowl ban by the NCAA for recruiting violations over the off season. However, when news broke that the Knights' appeal will not be heard until after the season, they became eligible to become this year's C-USA Champions in their final year in the league. Coach George O'Leary had guided the program to a bowl game four times since taking over in 2004.
The Miners crawled into last week's bye after being defeated, 45-35, by Houston for their fifth loss in six outings. Coach Mike Price has watched his team suffer double-digit losses in all seven of the team's setbacks this season. UTEP is 10-21 under Mike Price in the month of November.
The Knights hold a slim 2-1 edge in their brief rivalry with UTEP. Neither side has managed to win a game on the road in the series.
The Knights were a stellar offensive team in the month of October before opening up November with a 42-point and 396-yard outing. During its current five-game winning streak, UCF is posting 43.8 ppg.
Blake Bortles has shown development in his first year as a full-time starter and played well his last time out, completing 10-of-15 attempts for 110 yard and two TDs with no interceptions. The sophomore QB now has season totals of 1,985 yards, 16 TDs, and seven thrown picks.
UCF has a trio of effective wideouts in J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall, and Quincy McDuffie. Worton leads with 33 catches for 487 yards. Jeff Godfrey started at quarterback last season before moving to wideout in the spring. He had his best game as a receiver with five receptions, 71 yards, and a touchdown at Marshall. Last week he showed off his old positional skills by completing a 28-yard TD pass on a trick play.
McDuffie made a big time impact on special teams by returning two kickoffs back to the house to power the rout of Marshall in UCF's last road contest. No other player had returned two kickoffs for a touchdown in the same game in C- USA history.
The Knights' rushing attack features two dangerous weapons in Latavius Murray and Storm Johnson. UCF has amassed more than 200 yards in each of its last three outings. Murray picked up 155 rushing yards and a scored three total TDs in last week's win over SMU. The senior halfback has surpassed the century mark in three straight games. He is the sixth leading rusher in the conference with 693 yards and 10 touchdowns on 96 carries despite missing three games with an injury.
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 three games.
While O'Leary's offense is serviceable, his defense is even more impressive. The Knights lead the C-USA in total defense and scoring defense with averages of 343.7 allowed yards and 20.9 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.
Senior defensive backs A.J. Bouye and Kemal Ishmael are playmakers for UCF. Both have two interceptions and Ishmael is leading the team with 73 total stops.
The Miners showed signs of life on the offensive side of the ball their last time out with a season-high 494 yards versus Houston. UTEP is producing a paltry 19.1 ppg heading into this game.
The Miners hope starting QB Nick Lamaison is fully recovered from his nagging hamstring injury. Although he was questionable for the team's matchup versus Houston before the bye week, Lamaison fought through the injury and managed to play. However, his heroics were overshadowed by a poor 8-of-18 performance which yielded just 76 yards and four interceptions. Lamaison has completed 118-of-230 attempts for 1,437 yards with 10 TDs to nine interceptions this season.
Jordan Leslie and Mike Edwards are the two primary targets in the passing game. Both were a factor in UTEP's loss to Houston. Edwards grabbed a team- high six catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns while Leslie made four receptions for 95 yards and a score.
UTEP has found success on the ground in recent weeks. The Miners rushed for 217 yards versus Tulane and 193 yards against Houston in their past two games. Nathan Jeffery had a productive game on the ground with 137 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in the school's loss to the Cougars.
UTEP surrenders 432.8 yards per game to opponents, but its scoring defense is much better due to its big play ability. The Miners are great at dislodging the ball from opposing ball carriers and already have forced 19 fumbles. They managed to record six interceptions as well.
Twenty different players have recorded at least 10 tackles on the year for UTEP. Josh Fely (82) has the eighth most tackles in the C-USA. Horace Miller is an aggressive pass rusher up front with a team-best six sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
The struggling UTEP offense will have trouble getting anything going against the stingy Knights. UCF should have very little trouble as long as its offensive unit protects the ball.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 38, Texas-El Paso 14
11/07 10:42:52 ET