Who:                    #22 / 19 USF Bulls vs. #13 / 12 UCF Knights
What:                   FBS football game
When:                  Friday, November 24th, 2017
Where:                 Spectrum Networks Stadium
Why:                    Conference title implications and regional rivalry

This is the Rivalry Week game preview of the #22 / 19 University of  South Florida visiting the #13 / 12 University of Central Florida for the most important game in this series.  USF has the 6-2 edge, overall, winning two of the last three matchups.  This game, unlike prior games, will be a battle of two top 25 ranked teams, with the winner securing the East division of the American Athletic Conference with a chance at a conference title.  The loser will be bowling in obscurity. 

USF comes into the game with a 9-1 record, their sole loss a last second defeat at the hands of Houston, 28-24.  UCF is undefeated 10-0, for the first time in program history. 

USF Offense
USF brings the 16th ranked scoring offense in the nation into the game, averaging nearly 38 points per game.  Most of that production is due to the 8th best rushing attack, averaging 277 yards on the ground.  Bulls quarterback, Quinton Flowers, leads the stable of runners with an average of 87 yards per game and nine touchdowns on the season.  Running back, Darius Tice, is second on the team running the ball, averaging just one less yard per game than Flowers, 86, and one more touchdown on the season, 10.  Fellow running back, D’Ernest Johnson, ranks third on the team, but still plays a big role with his 71 yard per game output and seven total touchdowns. 

Passing numbers for the Bulls are less impressive, with Flowers’ passing offense ranking just 76th, nationally, averaging 217 yards per game.  Part of the reason for the low numbers is the high number of runs in games where USF has always had the lead and no need to throw the ball.  Wide receiver, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the target of choice, with 48 catches totaling 737 yards and five touchdowns.

UCF Defense
The Knights have the 26th ranked scoring defense in the country, allowing over 20 points per game.  They have not played many close games, a possible factor in the lower than expected ranking for a 10-0 team.  As a team, they rank 11th in interceptions and are tied for first in turnover margin, nationally.  Defensive backs, Kyle Gibson and Mike Hughes, lead the team with 4 and 3 interceptions, respectively, accounting for nearly half of the team’s total.  Linebacker, Shaquem Griffin, leads the Knights with three sacks and fellow linebacker, Pat Jasinski, leads with 76 total tackles.  They rank 54th against the run and 64th versus the pass, allowing over 155 and 218 yards, respectively.  In their last outing against Temple, they held the Owls to 19 points.

UCF Offense
Offense is where UCF really shines.  The Knight have the #1 scoring offense in the country, averaging 48 points per game.  Their 11th ranked passing offense, led by McKenzie Milton, averages more than 320 yards per game.  Milton has thrown 192 passes for 2,928 yards and 26 touchdowns with just five interceptions, this season.  Receivers, Tre’Quan Smith and Dredrick Snelson, lead the team in receiving.  Smith has 850 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.  Snelson is averaging 43 yards per game, finding the end zone three times.

On the ground, they rank 32nd, with 202 rushing yards, on average.  Running back, Adrian Killins, carries most of the load.  Killins averages nearly 63 yards per game and has scored eight touchdowns on the season.  Milton is second on the team in rushing yards, carrying for more than 37 yards on average, with five running touchdowns.

USF Defense
The Bulls are just a tick better on defense than the Knights, allowing their opponents just under 20 points per game, ranking them 23rd in scoring defense.  Against the run, they allow a 22nd best 123 yards per game, which is better than their 36th ranked passing defense, allowing an average of 200 yards per game.  Where they excel is in creating turnovers.  Their 17 interceptions is the second best team total in the country, and they are fifth in turnover margin. 

The defense is led by linebacker, Auggie Sanchez, who has 74 tackles to lead the team.  Lineman, Deadrin Senat follows in the second spot, with a total of 55.  Defensive back, Devin Abraham, leads the team with four interceptions.  Fellow defensive backs, Mazzi Wilkins and Deatrick Nichols have three picks, apiece.

This is the first opponent that USF has played all season where they are not the overwhelming favorite.  UCF’s offense is very hard to stop, but USF’s interception threat is real.  Milton is not interception prone, but this will probably be a better defense than he’s used to.  Look for the Knights to run more than average for them and for USF to allow that to happen to contain the pass.  UCF will do the opposite, in trying to contain the run threat of Flowers, challenge him to throw the ball.  That won’t necessarily create the homerun passes that he likes to throw, though, because the Knights and Bulls should match up well in regards to speed.  Expect a close game with lots of scoring on both sides, the winner piling on late to extend their lead to a couple of touchdowns.

The Knights are ten point favorites at home.  The over under for the game is 63.  ESPN’s RPI matchup predictor gives UCF a 79.1% chance to win the game.  Kickoff is at 3:30 EST and the game will be nationally broadcast on ABC.

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