posted on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 7:46 AM
Houston (7-1, 4-0 American) at No. 21 UCF (6-1, 3-0)
UCF leads series 3-1 (Last meeting November 5, 2010: UCF 40, Houston 33)
Two newcomers to the American Athletic Conference face off in a Saturday night showdown with the winner controlling its destiny in the race for the conference’s automatic BCS bid. The Cougars and Knights are no stranger to meaningful November games, as one of the two teams has appeared in seven of the last eight C-USA championship games prior to joining The American this season. The teams are a combined 7-0 in conference play, outscoring American opponents by more than 17 points per game.
Houston’s offense has been a model of consistency through the first eight games of the season. Led by true freshman QB John O’Korn, the Cougars’ have scored points in all 32 quarters of action, the only team in the FBS to accomplish the feat. O’Korn leads all true freshman with 22 passing touchdowns, doing so with a young team that features only seven seniors on the roster. Houston has taken advantage of other team’s mistakes, leading the nation with a +20 turnover margin and multiple forced turnovers in 15-straight contests. Junior linebacker Efrem Oliphant leads the team with 78 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. The Cougars begin a pivotal two-game road stretch with a trip to Louisville on the horizon next weekend.
UCF enters the game with its highest national ranking in school history and one win away from tying the best start in school history. The 2013 squad is just the second UCF team to score 20+ points in the first seven games of the season. Quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson have led the charge, tallying a combined 26 touchdowns. Bortles has completed 67% of his passes for 1,870 yards, while Johnson is averaging 5.2 yards per carry on the ground. The pair of juniors complement a defense that has been among the best in the conference through the first half of the season. UCF has allowed less than 20 points per game, ranking 18th nationally, aided by a defense that ranks eighth in red zone efficiency. Not to be left out, the special teams have been stellar as kicker Shawn Moffitt (9-9) is one of nine kickers in the nation to not miss a kick this season (min. five attempts)
Extra point – Houston and UCF rank second and third in the conference in red zone offense, scoring on a combined 71 of 82 opportunities inside the 20-yard line.