UCF Knights Set To Take On Arkansas State Red Wolves Saturday In Auto Nation Cure Bowl

By  //  December 13, 2016

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Matchup pits two of nations better defenses

ABOVE VIDEO: UCF head coach Scott Frost and select players talk about the Knights’ preparation for the Cure Bowl after their final Monday practice of the year.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – It’s Bowl week for the first time in two years for the University of Central Florida Knights.

Head coach Scott Frost and his team improved by six wins this season and will take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves Saturday in Orlando at Camping World Stadium. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)

In the Knight’s last Bowl appearance they also stayed in the Sunshine State, taking on another group of Wolves, the Wolfpack from North Carolina State.

UCF fell 34-27 in the St. Petersburg Bowl played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

THE MATCHUP: 

This contest will feature two of the better defensive units in the nation. UCF’s defense is No. 40 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 24.1 points per game.

UCF comes into the Cure Bowl with a 6-6 mark. The Knights were 2-2 in November, but have dropped their last two. Arkansas State is 7-5 overall after the regular season. The Red Wolves opened with four losses, but won seven of their final eight games.

This contest will feature two of the better defensive units in the nation. UCF’s defense is No. 40 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 24.1 points per game.

The Knights are No. 49 in total defense, allowing 381.7 yards a contest. Arkansas State comes in at No. 24 in scoring defense, giving up just 22.2 points a game. The Red Wolves are allowing 374.5 yards per contest, which ranks No. 49. Both are stout inside the 20, as well. UCF is No. 3 in red zone defense, while A-State is No. 38.

THE SERIES:

This will be just the second meeting between the Knights and Red Wolves. UCF and Arkansas State faced off way back on Oct. 5, 1991 in Jonesboro, Ark.

The Knights were victorious that day by a tally of 31-20. Willie English set what was then a UCF-record 242 yards rushing and scored on a 58-yard, fourth-quarter TD run to secure the victory. Back in 1991, both UCF and Arkansas State were NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS).

UCF BOWL HISTORY:

UCF is taking part in its eighth bowl in school history and its seventh in 10 years. The Cure Bowl will be the fifth different bowl game the Knights have played in. UCF has been to three St. Petersburg Bowls, two Liberty Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl and now the Cure Bowl.

The Knights are 3-4 all-time in bowl games, but have won three of their last four.

SCOUTING THE RED WOLVES:

ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of the defending Sun Belt Champion Red Wolves 35-3 pummeling of the No. 25 Trojans in their first meeting since 2013. The victory would give A-State their 15th straight in conference play and it would also extend their win streak over Troy to four as they now lead the all-time series 9-5.

Arkansas State has a solid defense that allows just 22 points per game to rank No. 24 in the nation. The Red Wolves allow just 375 yards per game, to rank No. 42.

Individually, Arkansas State is led on defense by Chris Odom and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones.

Both Red Wolf defenders are in the Top 10 nationally in sacks and in the Top 20 in tackles for loss. Offensively, Arkansas State has is No. 79 in the nation in yards per game at 392, while they are scoring 27 points per game to rank No. 74.

Arkansas State is led on defense by Chris Odom and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, picture above. (Arkansas State image)

Justice Hansen triggers the offense and has passed for 210 yards per game this season. Warren Wand is the top back, rushing for 72.3 yards per contest.

Blake Mack is the top passing target with an average of 48.8 yards receiving per contest.

BAKING TURNOVERS:

UCF created just 12 turnovers (No. 115 in the country) in 2015. The Knights have taken the ball away from opponents 25 times, which ranks No. 10 in the nation, this season.

The turnover margin comparison is also a stark contrast. UCF was No. 126 of 127 nationally in turnover margin last season (-1.67/game). This year, the Knights are No. 43 of 128 at +0.25 per game.

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SEEING RED:

The Knights have been extremely efficient in the red zone, on both offense and defense. UCF ranks No. 3 in the nation in red-zone defense, allowing scores on 70.4 percent of opponent opportunities.

Opponents are also scoring TDs on just 46 percent (25-of-54) of their trips inside the 20. On offense, the Knights are No. 14 in the nation, scoring 91 percent of the time and tallying touchdowns at a 66.7 percent clip (22-of-33).

YOUNG GUNS, GRIZZLED VETS:

More than 73 percent of UCF’s offensive points this season (241 of 329) have been scored by either freshmen or sophomores.

Meanwhile, more than 79 percent of UCF’s tackles (731 of 923) this season have been generated by upperclassmen (juniors and seniors). UCF’s top nine tacklers are all upperclassmen.

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