BYU Cougars (4-1 SU, 2-3 ATS) vs. UCF Knights (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date and Time: Thursday October 9th, 2014. 7:30PM EST
Where: Bright House Networks Stadium Orlando, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BYU +3.5/UCF -3.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
Last Friday night the BYU Cougars suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Utah State in front of a nationally televised audience. The Cougars entered that Friday night affair 4-0 SU sporting the 18th best ranking in college football and rather large 18 point favorites over Utah State. BYU had hopes of an undefeated season and even the whisper of a Heisman dark horse from their star quarterback Taysom Hill. However the Cougars lost Hill early in the game with a broken leg and everything went downhill from that point. Backup quarterback Christian Stewart threw 3 interceptions as the Aggies delivered a crushing 35-20 upset in Provo. This Thursday the Cougars return to the national spotlight in a road trip to Orlando, Florida for a meeting with the UCF Knights for a primetime spectacle on ESPN.
It is quite strange how things can change in college football on a weekly basis. Last week may have been considered upset Saturday with several of the top teams around the country going down with losses. However things took a devastating turn for the Cougars when they lost Taysom Hill at the quarterback position. The Cougars went from hopes of an undefeated season to seeing their backup quarterback toss 3 interceptions in an embarrassing performance. Now tons of questions surround backup quarterback Christian Stewart and if the Cougars can rebound from the loss of their Heisman hopeful quarterback.
This week the Cougars meet the UCF Knights who are 2-2 SU on the season. The Knights started the season with losses to Penn State and Missouri but have since rebounded with two straight wins including a 17-12 victory over Houston last Thursday. Many folks may remember the Knights 2013 campaign which set a school record with 12 wins including a big upset over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. UCF actually returned a ton of talent from that 2013 team including 9 starters on the defensive side of the football. The bad news is that the offense lost two of their most productive players in school history in quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson. As a result, the offense has not been able to get on track thus far this season ranking towards the bottom of the FBS in nearly every offensive category. Quarterback Justin Holman is completing just 54% of his passing and leading rusher William Stanback has just 181 yards through 4 games. The offensive struggles at the skill positions have made things difficult for the Knights to overcome this year which is the reason for the measly 2-2 SU start.
The good news for UCF is that the offense should continue to get better and the defense is still really good. The Knights defense ranks inside the top 30 in scoring and they could really make it difficult on BYU this Friday especially if quarterback Christian Stewart continues to struggle. BYU typically runs the ball very well but that was really a result of Hill’s running ability. Before the injury, Hill had racked up nearly 500 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns resulting in nearly half of the Cougars total rushing yards as a team. Going forward it will be interesting to see if running back Jamaal Williams can fill some of the void left in the running game. Stewart will still have opportunities to run from the quarterback position and BYU’s success on the ground will be critical towards maintaining their offensive success. However this week, expect UCF to stack the box against the run and force Stewart to prove he can move the ball with his arm.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think the trends set the tone in this game of two teams that may be going in opposite directions. BYU is just 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 games while the Knights are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games. I really like the Knights defense in this game and think scoring may be really rare on both sides of the ball. Consider a play on the under once the total is released and expect the Knights cover the number. Take UCF -3.5!