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|UCF Knights||+6.5 (-105)
|O 55.5 (-110)
|Florida Gators||-6.5 (-115)
|U 55.5 (-110)
This is a very interesting matchup. UCF has long wanted a matchup with Florida – but with both teams in a down season it doesn’t have the pizazz that Knights fans might have hoped for. Still, it’s a chance to stick it to one of the big schools in the state. The Gators are favored because they have more talent, but I wouldn’t be so sure to jump on that. They’re without multiple starters on both sides of the ball and have a new coach coming in – that type of instability might be just what the Knights need.
UCF to cover the spread +6.5 (-105)
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Good teams know what their strengths are. For this year’s UCF squad, it’s the defense. So, when the offense has the ball, the goal is to minimize turnovers.
That became especially true earlier this season, when starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel got hurt back in mid-September. That’s when they had to throw freshman Mikey Keene to the Wolves, but after some growing pains, has performed nicely as the team’s signal caller.
Keene went 159-of-250 (63.6 percent) for 16 touchdowns and six interceptions – and he only got better with time. After throwing five touchdowns and five interceptions in his first five games, Keene turned it around with a five-touchdown performance against temple and has thrown for 11 scores and just one interception over the past five weeks.
His favorite target during that time has been Ryan O’Keefe – a junior who enjoyed a career year with 77 catches, 727 yards and six scores.
They go against a Florida defense that ranked 46th in total defense this season, but is missing a number of key players on that side of the ball because either 1. They’re sitting out to prep for the NFL draft or 2. They’ve entered the transfer portal because Billy Napier is the new coach on the way in.
Either way, it’s going to be very difficult to expect this Gators team to be at top form, especially without defensive end Khris Bogle who transferred to Michigan State and linebacker Mohamoud Diabate – who has 176 total tackles, 73 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks, one interception, two pass deflections and three forced fumbles in three seasons.
The Emory Jones hype was high when he committed to Florida. He waited his turn behind Kyle Trask and this year was supposed to be the coming out party.
However Jones never quite caught on in Gainesville and after a rough season and Dan Mullen on the way out (as well as Napier on the way in) Jones made it clear that he intends to enter the transfer portal.
However, since Anthony Richardson (the man who took his job) had to undergo a knee procedure, Jones appears poised to start one more game for the Gators.
His stats this year weren’t horrible, but he had way too many turnovers: 2,563 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran for a team-high 697 yards and four scores.
The X-factor for Florida is the rushing game – it never really took off other than Jones this year, but maybe a few weeks practice can change that. Dameon Pierce can run, he just never got a lot of touches this season. His final game of the year was the only time he got to run more than 10 times, but we bet that changes here. Watch out for Pierce to be a factor.
For UCF, Johnny Richardson was a big play waiting to happen all season. In half of his games he had a rush of 20 yards or longer and finished with 693 rushing yards and three scores. Despite those struggles to score this season, Richardson will find the end zone in this one.
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|UCF Knights vs Florida Gators Information|
|Teams||UCF Knights vs. Florida Gators|
|Location||Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL|
|Time||Thursday, UCF etam Dec. 23, 7:00 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
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Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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