UCF Knights Host No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats in Highly Anticipated Conference Game Tilt: Preview

By  //  November 20, 2020

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3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN

Let’s start by saying the UCF-Cincinnati matchup Saturday afternoon at the Bounce House looms as one of the juiciest American Athletic Conference contests of the 2020 season. (UCF Knights Image)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (UCF Knights) – Let’s start by saying the UCF-Cincinnati matchup Saturday afternoon at the Bounce House looms as one of the juiciest American Athletic Conference contests of the 2020 season.

Maybe even the best—if only because of the intrigue involved in anticipating the Knights’ high-flying offense meeting the top-rated Bearcat defense.

For the Knights (5-2 overall, 4-2 in American Athletic Conference play), it’s a chance to advance their win streak to four games, something UCF did not accomplish in 2019 (three three-game victory streaks).

For the seventh-rated Bearcats (7-0 overall, 5-0 AAC), it’s a chance to add to their already impressive resume in the first of three straight road games for Cincinnati.

For UCF, it’s the last of four home games at the Bounce House—in a season that originally listed seven home dates (games versus North Carolina, FIU and Florida A&M were lost). It’s also a chance to reverse the tally from its first league loss in 2019, a 27-24 Bearcat win at Nippert Stadium that ended the Knights’ 19-game AAC victory streak and marked the first Cincinnati win over a ranked team in a decade.

Here’s what’s at stake Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN):
Will the Bearcats need a road map? Cincinnati has played only a single road game so far in 2020—winning 42-13 at 16th-rated SMU Oct. 24. The Bearcats finish the year with three straight away-from-home conference contests (also at Temple Nov. 28 and at Tulsa Dec. 4), the first time in Cincinnati history that has happened.

Fans of both teams can’t wait to see what happens when UCF has the ball. Here’s why that matchup is so enticing:
–It will be a UCF offense that leads the country in total offense (619.1 yards per game) against a Cincinnati defense that ranks best in the ACC and 10th nationally in total defense (at 300.9).
–It will be a UCF passing attack that leads the nation (396.9 yards per game) against a Bearcat pass defense that has allowed only two TD passes (one each by SMU and Memphis) in 2020. UCF has thrown for 23 this season.
–It will be Dillon Gabriel, who has thrown 188 consecutive passes without an interception against a Cincinnati defense than ranks second nationally with its 12 interceptions.
–It will be a UCF offense that averages 44 points per game against a Bearcat defense that ranks third nationally in scoring defense (12.4 points per game). Austin Peay scored the most points this season against Cincinnati—20 in the Bearcats’ season-opening 55-20 triumph. UCF has scored at least 26 points in all seven games in 2020 and notched at least 44 in five of its first six outings. Meanwhile the Bearcats have scored at least 38 points in four consecutive games—a first for the program.

These teams win at home. Cincinnati last weekend finished off its third consecutive season without a home loss and now has won 19 in a row at Nippert Stadium. UCF has won 23 of its last 24 at the Bounce House—with a loss to Tulsa Oct. 3 ending the Knights’ 21-game homefield win streak.

These teams force the opposition to make mistakes. These are two of the top four teams in the country in turnovers gained—UCF first with 19 (the Knights lead the country in fumbles recovered with 10), Cincinnati fourth with 16 (12 of those interceptions to rate second nationally).

Will the Bearcats limit the big plays? Dillon Gabriel alone so far in 2020 has produced 19 pass plays of 35 or more yards (eight of those to Jaylon Robinson). Cincinnati has permitted no pass play longer than 28 yards in four of its seven games (Army, USF, SMU, ECU), while only once (Austin Peay) allowing a run longer than 28 yards.

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