UCF Knights Travel To Philadelphia To Battle Division Foe Temple – Five Things to Watch

By  //  October 26, 2019

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kickoff set for 7 p.m.

ABOVE VIDEO: Marc Daniels sits down with Sami Kincaid to preview Saturday’s game with Five Fast Facts on Temple.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA (UCF Knights) – As UCF heads back on the road this week to face Temple, these two teams in some ways are mirror images of each other—beginning with their records (both squads are 5-2 overall and 2-1 in league play).

The winner of this contest will retain hopes of catching American Athletic Conference East Division leader Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0, ranked 18th in both polls), while the loser will find a path to the conference title game much more difficult to identify. Temple plays at Cincinnati Nov. 23.

A headline Thursday in the Philadelphia Inquirer read, “Temple-UCF: A must-win game for both teams whether they like to think about it or not.”

Here are some areas to watch when the Knights take on the Owls Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in front of a prime-time audience on ESPN2:

Will either team change the home/away equation?

Both these teams are 4-0 at home in 2019. Both are 1-2 away from their home fields (UCF has lost at 5-2 Pitt and 6-1 Cincinnati, Temple at 3-4 Buffalo and 8-0 SMU). So it’s rather simple—either Temple protects that homefield mark or UCF finds its away-from-home karma that had enabled the Knights to claim 10 regular-season road victories in a row before those defeats against Pitt and Cincinnati. UCF gained 423 total yards against both Pitt and Cincinnati—and the Knights have managed at least 545 yards in their other five games (all wins).

Maybe a very simple plan.

When Knights’ offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby was asked Wednesday what his offense and quarterback Dillon Gabriel needed to do to be successful in Philadelphia, the answer came quickly—take care of the football and convert in the red zone. Turnovers sabotaged both the UCF road losses. Gabriel has thrown only five interceptions and they all came in the two Knights’ away-from-home defeats. Meanwhile, the result in Cincinnati might have been different if even one or two of UCF’s early drives deep into Bearcat territory had resulted in touchdowns as opposed to field goals. In the two defeats, the Knights had 11 combined red-zone attempts and came away with only three TDs.

The skinny on Temple.

First-year head coach Rod Carey already has seen his Owls win two games versus ranked foes (two in a single season for the first time in Temple history)—defeating then-21st Maryland and then-23rd Memphis (the only Memphis loss in 2019). The Owls in their five wins have limited opponents to 28 or fewer points—while in their pair of defeats have permitted at least 38 points. Among Temple offensive leaders are quarterback Anthony Russo (1,674 passing yards with 14 TDs vs. six interceptions), rookie running back Re’Mahn Davis (629 yards and five TDs)–and receivers Jaden Blue (42 catches for 529 yards), Isaiah Wright (40 for 380) and Branden Mack (38 for 525) who have combined for 11 scoring catches.

Who can execute better?

UCF averages 7.71 penalties and 69.57 penalty yards per game. The numbers for Temple are 7.86 and 68.43. None of those equate to national rankings that prompt much bragging. So the team that can lower those averages better than the other may derive a significant advantage.

What motivation do these two teams have?

The Knights know they have to play cleaner on the road to be successful—and that comes in the way of fewer turnovers, fewer penalties and better red-zone execution. All those shortcomings have been well-documented and discussed—now UCF needs to display improvement in those categories on the field. The Owls have won their previous four home games in different ways—by two and three points and also by 22 and 44 points. So Temple will believe it can get to 5-0 at home no matter what kind of game transpires. Watch the pass defense—because these are two of the top 20 teams in the country in passing efficiency defense (UCF is ranked sixth, Temple 19th). And don’t forget that no team in the country has registered as many first downs as UCF (28 per game overall, 24.3 in the three Knight road contests).

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