11/09/2013 10:16 AM
Houston Cougars at UCF Knights (-10.5)
ATS pick: Central Florida
This season, Central Florida is more of a passing team than in years past, but at heart this is still the kind of physical, downhill offense that gives problems to Houston's smallish, athletic defense. Houston's only blemish is a one-point loss to BYU in which the Cougars were outgained by 200 yards. Its best win is not against a sad-sack Rutgers outfit, but rather a solid Rice team that would have won the game had bruising tailback Charles Ross not been knocked out early. The Owls found something late in that contest with freshman Darik Dillard running between the tackles, but by then it was too late. Central Florida will bring more physicality than any of Houston's victims, and the Cougars' defense just isn't built to stand up to this kind of offensive line.
We noted last week that Houston's success was largely a function of an unsustainable turnover margin, the kicking-game edge we'd expect from a head coach with a special-teams background and the constant field-position advantage that results from both of the above. Houston now meets its match in a Knights squad that doesn't beat itself and has even better special teams than the Cougars. This is a championship-stakes game in a very tough road environment. Houston matches up poorly at the line of scrimmage, won't enjoy many of the advantages that have fueled its gaudy record and needs more than low double-digits on the road with a true freshman quarterback.
Score: Central Florida 42, Houston 24