2021 Bearcats Opponent Preview: Central Florida

Team Chaos prevailed over the weekend and along with a 52-3 Blowout at Nippert our beloved Bearcats have moved to #3 in the Country in the AP Poll. This is the Bearcats highest ranking and marks one year of being ranked in the Top 10. They have the second longest streak in the Top 10 behind the Crimson Tide. We need our Cats to continue blowing teams out to stay in the Top 4 and keep our Playoff hopes alive! What a great time to be a Bearcat fan!

Bearcats Blow Owlt

Temple was not very good against the Bearcats on Friday night. The Bearcats needed a blow out and they got it, behind two big muffed punt recoveries and 279 rushing yards, the Cats took care of business and walked away unscathed. Temple only crossed mid-field 3 times and was never a threat as the Bearcats went into halftime with a 17-3 lead and never looked back. Ridder continues to spread the ball around to a multitude of receivers, with 6 having over 100 yards and a total of 12 passing touchdowns. WR Alec Pierce has established himself as a clear number 1, and as long as he stays healthy, the Bearcats will be in good shape in the passing game.

The Blackcats defense finally had the big game they were looking for in getting after the passer. They had 6 sacks on the day and the pressure generated another interception for Coby Bryant. The Owls didn’t look like the team that had beaten Memphis the week before. Ultimately, this is exactly what UC needed to do this week, as the American Conference is not very good. We need to root for SMU to win out and set up a big match-up for Senior Day on November 20th, other than that, the schedule doesn’t have much intrigue until then. The Bearcats should be able to sleep walk through the next few games.

Central Florida Knights

Last November, on a magical day for Brian Bird, the Bearcats traveled to Orlando to face the Knights in the Bounce House. In a game in which the Bearcats went down 14-3 in the first quarter, the Bearcats and the Knights traded blows back and forth throughout and the Bearcats ultimately won 36-33. Chaos nearly struck as the Bearcats approached the goal line as time was expiring. Ridder fumbled the ball at the 1 yard line with no one behind him. Had UCF scooped that ball up, their perfect season would have faded into the ether. Luckily, victory prevailed for the Bearcats and they were on their way to the AAC Championship game.

Desmond Ridder threw for 338 yards on that November day and accounted for all 4 touchdowns, rushing for 2 and throwing 2. They held Dillon Gabriel to 243 yards and 3 touchdowns and forced 1 interception. Ridder was the better QB on the field that day and had a big road win that ultimately led to a Peach Bowl birth for the Bearcats.

UCF is a shell of itself this year, with their head coach Josh Heupel moving on to Tennessee and hiring Auburn wash-out Gus Malzahn (we’ve seen this movie before, it doesn’t end well). The Knights head into Nippert 3-2 in a game that both teams and ESPN had circled in pencil on the schedule. Had the Knights performed as expected, this game is likely a primetime match-up and hosting College GameDay, but alas, we will play on ABC at Noon as a consolation prize.

Knights QB Dillon Gabriel broke his collarbone (I feel for you, homie) in the last play of the game against Louisville and Central Florida has turned to True Freshman Mikey Keene as their signal caller. He’s not been able to cross the 200 yard barrier and has thrown 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions so far this season. Keene has never seen a defense like the BlackCats defense and I look for Defensive Coordinator Mike Tressel to throw a lot of new looks at him to try and confuse him and force him into bad decisions. UCF’s offense ranks #22 in the Country averaging 469 yards a game, but since Gabriel has gone down, they’ve averaged about 345 yards a game. This isn’t the explosive UCF offense we’ve been used to over the past few years.

Defensively, the Knights are about average, ranking #61 allowing about 366 yards a game. They allow 27.4 points per game which is good for #82 in the country. The Bearcats #9 scoring offense (41/game) should give the Knights fits. They lost their best defender, DT Kalia Davis for the season against ECU, so I look for the Bearcats to pound the ball like they did against Temple this past week. I look for Jerome Ford to have another big day rushing the ball and for Ridder to make smart passes.

UCF isn’t the same team they’ve been over the past few years, a coaching change and a QB change has driven the Knights back to mediocrity. Hopefully Malzahn rebounds when he gets his guys in and can run his system, as this could be a fun rivalry as we both move into the Big 12. The Bearcats go into this game as 20 point favorites.

Bearcats – 38
Knights – 10

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