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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bright House Networks Stadium (45,323) -- Orlando, Florida Television: CBSSN. Home Record: USM 0-3, UCF 2-1. Away Record: USM 0-2, UCF 1-1. Neutral Record: USM 0-0, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: USM 0-1, UCF 1-0. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 6-1.
GAME NOTES: The reigning Conference USA champions seek their first win of the season still as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles travel to Bright House Networks Stadium to battle the UCF Knights.
Southern Miss managed to upset Houston in last season's C-USA Championship game and went on to win a bowl game, but it has been unable to pick up a victory in five games this season. Most recently, the Golden Eagles were trampled, 40-14, by Boise State at home. Ellis Johnson is still seeking his first win as the team's head coach, as USM enters with an 0-1 mark in conference action.
UCF is 3-2 overall and 1-0 in C-USA action after last week's 40-20 triumph over East Carolina at home. The Knights have alternated wins and losses this season. Both the team's losses have come against BCS schools (Ohio State and Missouri). Coach George O'Leary's team is off to a decent start, but it still remains to be seen if it will all go to waste as a looming appeal to be bowl eligible at the end of the season is currently being reviewed by the NCAA.
USM hold a 6-1 advantage in its all-time series with UCF. The Knights are heading to the Big East next season, which will dissolve the rivalry for the foreseeable future.
In 2011, USM was second to only Houston's record breaking unit in offensive production in the C-USA with averages of 461.4 yards and 36.9 points per game. Those numbers seem like a distant memory as the Golden Eagles are producing a mere 304.2 yards and 16.4 points per contest this season.
Three different quarterbacks have seen significant time under center already this season. The freshmen duo of Ricky Lloyd and Anthony Alford continue to both see action due to their polar opposite playing styles. Lloyd is a pocket passer and is coming off a career-high 143 passing yard performance against Boise State.
Alford is a much bigger threat to take off, but he also amassed a career-high (100) in passing yardage in last week's loss to Boise State.
Desmond Johnson is the primary ball carrier for USM. The senior tailback is seventh in the C-USA with 375 yards and a touchdown on 60 carries. Alford is the team's second leading rusher with 163 yards.
USM was one of the top defensive teams in the conference last season as well, but that too has changed. The Golden Eagles are giving up 35.2 points and just under 400 yards per game. Jamie Collins is the heart and soul of the defensive unit with team-leading totals of 45 tackles and three sacks.
UCF has displayed one of the most explosive offenses in the conference this year, putting up 32.2 ppg. The team is coming off a win over ECU in which it generated a season-high 436 yards of total offense.
Blake Bortles has shown promise at quarterback in his first season as the full-time starter, completing 67.5 percent of his passes (102-of-151) for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns, but the sophomore has also been turnover prone, tossing five interceptions.
Miami-Florida transfer Storm Johnson has emerged as the team's top performer out of the backfield with 74 carries for 364 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brynn Harvey (147 yards, TD) and Latavius Murray (138 yards, TD) have also received their share of carries.
UCF has a few different options in the passing attack. Rannell Hall is leading the squad with 293 yards and three touchdowns on 16 catches, but J.J. Worton (246 yards, one TD) has been nearly as effective. Quincy McDuffie and last season's starting QB, Jeff Godfrey, are both used often as well.
The Knight defense has been stout thus far, allowing just 21.2 ppg, while holding opponents to only 29 percent on third-down conversion attempts.
Troy Davis has stood out on an impressive defensive line, logging 6.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Thomas Niles has three sacks and Terrance Plummer has a team-high 47 total stops.
The Knights are too good on both sides of the ball to falter at home against the struggling Golden Eagles. Bortles appears to be developing as he builds confidence and composure in the pocket each week. Johnson could have a breakout performance and emerge as one of the league's top tailbacks against USM's weak rush defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 35, Southern Miss 13
10/10 10:55:26 ET
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