Missouri offers solid home test for UCF
To say UCF's success against the SEC is a mixed bag would be generous.
The Knights beat Georgia in the 2010 Liberty Bowl, but that was just the second win in 15 tries against teams from that conference.
Saturday, when Missouri visits Orlando, marks as good a chance as any for UCF to make it two in a row against SEC teams.
The Tigers (2-2, 0-2 in the SEC), in their first season in the league, are 2-2, though their two losses came against undefeated teams in Georgia and South Carolina. But the Bulldogs (fifth) and the Gamecocks (sixth) are ranked in the top 10. The matchup against UCF, who are coming off a bye week, will be on a much more level playing field.
Both schools are in the bottom half of the country in total offense, with UCF (2-1) averaging 390 yards per game and Missouri averaging 349, and neither team rushes the ball with outstanding results — Missouri is 76th in the country and UCF is 66th, though the Knights have been without top back Latavius Murray for two of their three games.
Murray is expected to play on Saturday, but he is not going to start, according to head coach George O'Leary.
Though the two-headed rushing attack of senior Brynn Harvey and sophomore Storm Johnson has yielded some results — both are averaging 4.4 yards per carry or better this season — the Tigers' main focus will be slowing down sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles, who is completing 66.7 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
Bortles is no doubt the top quarterback for the Knights, but Missouri fans may be more familiar with his backup: Tyler Gabbert, a redshirts sophomore who transferred to UCF from Missouri and is the brother of Tigers great Blaine Gabbert, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Three UCF receivers have more than 100 receiving yards: sophomores J.J. Worton (194) and Rannell Hall (197), and senior Quincy McDuffie (104).
Missouri brings in an offense that has sputtered this year, thanks in no small part to a shoulder injury to junior quarterback James Franklin. Franklin, who led the team in rushing last season, has seen his yards-per-carry average plummet to 1.7.
Head coach Gary Pinkel showed his support for the quarterback, who should be able to start on Saturday, telling reporters, "I believe in him and I expect him to get better."
UCF hasn't had an awful lot of success against the SEC, but Saturday's game at noon on FOX Sports Florida — the final non-conference matchup for the Knights — may offer UCF a decent opportunity to pick up another win against an SEC team.