Houston vs UCF Prediction: Knights Win Big?
Via Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: John Rhys Plumlee #10 of the UCF Knights looks to throw a pass in the second half of a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at FBC Mortgage Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.
Houston vs UCF Prediction
Let's take a look at the Houston vs UCF Prediction and make a pick for Saturday's college football game between Big 12 newcomers.
Houston and UCF meet in Orlando on Saturday afternoon for an American Athletic Conference matchup on FS1.
The Knights enter the season finale needing a win to go to a bowl game with a 5-6 record overall and 2-6 mark in the Big 12. Meanwhile, the Cougars have dropped four of their last five to fall out of bowl contention at 4-7 on the season.
UCF has a clear motivational edge in this AAC battle, and this one may not be very competitive at The Bounce House.
Find my Houston vs UCF Prediction below.
Dana Holgorsen's Houston squad is one of several Big 12 newcomers that have struggled in the first season of Power Five play.
Houston owns two wins against teams previously in the conference after defeating West Virginia and Baylor. The other newcomers to the league are a combined 2-17 against preceding league members.
Those two victories for the Cougars have both featured late drama. The first one was capped off by a 49-yard, tip-drill Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired to seal a two-point victory. In the other win over Baylor, Houston needed a two-point conversion in overtime to secure the road victory.
While Houston hasn't won many Big 12 games, there have been individual Cougars who have left their marks in Big 12 play, especially quarterback Donovan Smith. Smith leads the league in pass completions (244) and is either second or third in passing yards, total offense and total touchdowns.
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After a five-game losing streak to open conference play, Gus Malzahn’s team was buried in the Big 12 basement. However, wins over Cincinnati and No. 15 Oklahoma State have given UCF a chance to go bowling.
Even during the struggles, Malzahn has still put a great offensive product on the field. On the year, UCF leads the league in total offense and rushing while also ranking in the top five in scoring.
The UCF rushing attack has been the offense's strength as it ranks fourth in the country in yards per game with 234.1. The Knights, led by one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in John Rhys Plumlee, have rushed for 140 or more yards in every game this season; they are one of only two teams nationally to accomplish this feat, joining West Virginia.
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Houston and UCF match up statistically:
Houston Offense vs. UCF Defense
UCF Offense vs. Houston Defense
Pace of Play / Other
|Special Teams SP+
|Seconds per Play
UCF has a huge motivational edge, and this number isn’t quite big enough.
With that said, my best bet is on the Knights to cover the 13.5-point spread, which I would bet up to -14.
As a Mike Leach disciple, Holgorsen’s team needs to generate passing yards for the Air Raid system to be successful. However, UCF enters the game ranked 27th in Pass Success Rate Allowed on defense, although the Knights have horrific numbers against the run.
On the other side of the ball, it all comes down to whether the Cougars can stop the run, and I don't have much confidence there. This is a defense that ranks outside the top 100 in Rush Success Rate Allowed and Tackling Grade, by Pro Football Focus.
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Holgorsen’s Houston squad has also struggled mightily on the road as it has lost by a combined 62 points at Kansas State and Texas Tech, giving up an average of over 200 yards rushing in those trips.
This is also the same team that lost at Rice and needed overtime to win at a bad Baylor squad.
With absolutely nothing to play for, I worry if Houston even shows up in this spot. This is already a difficult place to win, and the Cougars have an early kickoff against a team fighting for a bowl game.
As long as no news comes out about Malzahn taking another coaching job, I like the Knights to secure bowl eligibility with a big win here.