No. 15 UCF focusing on SMU with BCS berth in reach
UCF has two chances this week to punch it’s ticket to a BCS
Either a Cincinnati loss to No. 19 Louisville on Thursday night
or victory by the 15th-ranked Knights in their finale against SMU
on Saturday will give UCF (10-1, 7-0) the American Athletic
Conference title and the BCS berth that goes with it.
Coach George O’Leary prefers his team gets there on its own.
”Whatever happens on Thursday night, I don’t want to back into
anything,” O’Leary said. ”I think you want to win it if you have
a chance to be undefeated in conference play. How many teams in the
country can do that this year? … Our concern is playing SMU and
winning the game. That’s why we’re playing. Whatever happens could
be great for us or it doesn’t change anything. ”
For a team that entered the season in the shadow of
American-favorite Louisville, the Knights have fared well in the
national spotlight late in the season while surviving in a series
The Knights have posted six wins by seven or fewer points this
season, including five in conference play.
The most recent was 23-20 win last week over rival South
O’Leary described the performance of his team’s usually
dependable offense ”awful” in a game that featured five UCF
It’s underlined his call for extra focus this week.
”We’re very fortunate to win a game with five turnovers,”
O’Leary said. ”I’ve been in football a long time. I’ve had four
and scraped by. Five? That’s a lot. It shows the resiliency of both
sides of making plays when they had to make it. But again, the
offense’s performance was unacceptable. They were told that.
”We just gotta get back to things that we do and stop worrying
about individual (statistics), which I think was taking place a
While they may not have played a complete game in all three
phases yet, the Knights have to like their chances to claim their
first conference championship since 2010.
The USF game aside, the Knights have won seven straight and have
an offense that ranks second in the league averaging 34.6 points
SMU (5-6, 4-3) is playing to become bowl eligible, but is coming
off a 34-0 loss to Houston and its defense is giving up a
league-worst 34.8 points per game.
Offensively it ranks third in the conference, averaging more
than 440 yards, but may be without starting quarterback Garrett
Gilbert, who entered the week listed as questionable with a knee
The Mustangs started freshman Neal Burcham in his place and were
out of sync throughout offensively against Houston.
The task only gets harder against a UCF offense that has been
virtually unflappable late in games behind quarterback Blake
Bortles. Bortles is coming off a three-turnover game against USF,
but ranks seventh nationally in pass efficiency (167.3) and has
thrown for 3,038 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2013.
It’s why UCF receiver J.J. Worton said that even when games have
gotten close, the trust in Bortles hasn’t changed.
”No one senses (him) being scared in the huddle,” Worton said.
”We all know what he can do and we all know he’s gonna take us to
where we need to be. And we trust him, we’re just gonna run our
routes and know he’s gonna get the ball there.”
It’s also why senior offensive lineman Justin McCray expects the
Knights to be in exactly the right frame of mind on Saturday,
regardless of if they are already American champions or not before
”We just keep looking at it like we have the past couple of
weeks. We’ve got a championship game coming up, that’s how it was
last week and the week before,” he said. ”We (have) tunnel vision
to this game. We’re not listening to what anybody else is saying.
We’re just trying to get ready for SMU.”
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