Preview: UCF vs. USF 2020 War on I4
The University of South Florida Bulls will host the University of Central Florida Knights for the next edition of the War on I4 on Friday. The hometown Bulls hold a 6-5 edge in the all-time series, but it is the Knights who have taken three straight wins in the past three matchups.
The Knights have a 5-3 record, coming into this game after losing a close game, 36-33 to #7 Cincinnati. The Bulls are 1-7, with their only win coming over The Citadel.
USF has struggled to put together a consistent offense this season, pestered by the affects of COVID-19 on the roster and the lack of a strong quarterback emerging. At different points this season, Jordan McCloud had been named the starter, only to be replaced later in the season by Noah Johnson, who would then miss time related to COVID-19. McCloud has passed for 937 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Johnson has 459 passing yards, three touchdowns and one pick. Johnson has also rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulls have lost their leading running back, Johnny Ford, who has decided to leave the program. His departure leaves Kelley Joiner as the leading back on the team with 252 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Receiving more carries in recent weeks has been Brian Battie, who has 230 yards, the bulk of which came in the past two games.
On the receiving corps, Omarion Dollinson has passed DeVontres Dukes as the leader in receiving yards with 249 and one touchdown. Dukes has 231 yards and two scores.
As a unit, the Bulls rank 108th in scoring offense and 109th in total offense.
The Knights’ defense ranks 64th, nationally, allowing nearly 30 points per game. In total defense, they rank 99th, allowing 452 yards of offense per game.
Ritchie Grant is the guy to watch when the Knights are on defense. Grant, who is on watch lists for Bednarik, Nagurski, and Thorpe awards, leads the team with 65 tackles and three interceptions. Linebacker, Eriq Gilyard, is second in total tackles (54), but leads the team in tackles for loss (8.5). Defensive lineman, Kenny Turnier, has 1/5 of the team’s sacks (4) and is second on the team in tackles for loss (7.5).
UCF really shines on offense. The Knights are second in the nation in total offense, 586 yards per game, and 11th in scoring offense with nearly 43 points per game. This high powered offense has been led by sophomore quarterback, Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel has passed for 3,017 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just three interceptions.
The biggest beneficiary of Gabriel’s efficient passing has been senior receiver, Marlon Williams, who has amassed 1,049 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. Jaylon Robinson has also had a great year at receiver, catching passes for 854 yards and five touchdowns.
Otis Anderson and Greg McCrae split carries in the run game, with Anderson leading in yards (614-551) , and McCrae leading in touchdowns (8-4).
Like the offense, the Bulls have been inconsistent on defense. They rank 114th in scoring defense and 109th in total defense. Linebacker Antonio Grier, despite missing some playing time this season, leads the team in total tackles with 50. Grier also leads with tackles for loss (4) and sacks (3). Lineman, Thad Mangum, also has four tackles for loss.
UCF will be fired up for this game. There is a possibility that injured quarterback, Milton MacKenzie, who injured his leg against the Bulls two yeas ago, may play. He’ll have a way of rallying his team to victory that will be tough to deal with.
The Knights are 25 point favorites on the road. ESPN’s Football Power Index predicts a 95% chance of victory. The game will be broadcast on ESPN,