UAB (3-8) at UCF (8-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 24, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bright House Networks Stadium (45,301) -- Orlando, Florida. Television: FSN. Home Record: UAB 2-4, UCF 4-1. Away Record: UAB 1-4, UCF 4-2. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 2-5, UCF 6-1. Series Record: UCF leads, 7-2.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights and the UAB Blazers will close out the 2012 regular season on Saturday afternoon, as the Conference USA rivals meet at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando.
UAB has salvaged a terrible season in recent weeks with back-to-back wins over Southern Miss (27-19) and Marshall (38-31). The Blazers relapsed in their latest game at home against Memphis however (46-9), gaining just 213 yards of total offense en route to their worst conference defeat of the season.
After a 2-2 start, UCF caught fire with six consecutive wins, all over C-USA foes, but it snapped that streak last week when it went on the road and fell to Tulsa, 23-21. Even with the defeat, the Knights can clinch the conference's East Division with a win over UAB or an East Carolina loss, thus earning a chance at redemption against the West Division champs Tulsa in the conference championship game.
The Knights hold a 7-2 advantage over UAB in the all-time series, but the Blazers came out victorious in last year's matchup, 26-24.
Despite the poor effort last week, the UAB offense is still a formidable unit, ranking in the middle of the pack in both scoring (28.6 ppg) and yardage (402.7 ypg) in the league.
The biggest reason for the Blazers' offensive success is due to running back Darrin Reaves. He has logged more than half of his team's carries, which have resulted in 966 yards and 13 touchdowns, both ranking in the top three in the conference. He's also a great receiver out of the backfield with 35 receptions.
Austin Brown has taken the majority of the snaps with modest success, completing less than 58 percent of his passes for 2,470 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Jonathan Perry (53-of-94, 726 yards, four TDs, INT) has also garnered plenty of playing time. Regardless of who is under center, he has had a difficult time staying upright, as the Blazers have allowed 40 sacks.
Seven different players have caught multiple touchdown passes, but oddly enough, leading receiver Jackie Williams (44 receptions, 744 yards) has just one score.
A porous defense has been the primary reason for UAB's struggles, as it allows more than 36 ppg.
Standing out from a poor unit is Marvin Brudette, who is among the nation's leaders in tackles with 142. The senior linebacker has also recorded 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception.
UCF actually puts up less yards per game than UAB (400.5), but it has been much more efficient, which has led to third-best scoring offense in the league (34.7 ppg).
On the season, Blake Bortles has played well, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 2,368 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. However, he, along with the rest of the Knights' offense, struggled against Tulsa, completing just 13-of-31 pass attempts.
Few running backs in the country have had better per-game numbers than Latavius Murray. Despite missing three games in September, Murray has racked up 870 yards rushing, 168 yards receiving, and 14 total touchdowns. Although he scored last week, he put up just 67 total yards, his lowest output since Oct. 4.
Bortles spreads the wealth among several receivers. Four players have at least 325 receiving yards, paced by J.J. Worton (37 receptions, 519 yards, two TDs).
UCF is in position to earn a spot in the conference championship game thanks in large part to its stout defense, which ranks first in the league in both average points (21.4) and yards allowed (354.5).
The unit has forced 24 turnovers, led by six from Kemal Ishmael (three INTs, three fumble recoveries). In addition to being one of the best defensive playmakers in the league, the senior defensive back is also the team-leader in tackles (92). Troy Davis (nine TFL, 6.5 sacks, three FF, three fumble recoveries) is also having an All-C-USA type of season.
UCF is happy to be back home after last week's misstep, and it is fortunate that after a strong start to the season it is still in play for the league championship. With that in mind, the Knights should have no problem winning their ninth game of the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 41, UAB 20
11/21 10:54:04 ET