UCF eyes BCS bowl bid with AAC title
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Coming off a 19-14 win over Houston at home last week, No. 15 UCF is four wins from its first BCS bowl game.
At 4-0 in the American Athletic Conference, the Knights sit ahead of three 4-1 teams — Louisville, Cincinnati, and Houston — and own tiebreakers over two of the three. Cincinnati is the lone team from the American not on UCF’s schedule.
Should the Knights win out, they’ll tale the inaugural American championship and an automatic qualifier berth to a BCS bowl game in the conference’s final year of AQ status.
Their closing stretch starts on the road in Philadelphia against the 1-8 Temple Owls on Saturday.
“I’ve watched them a bunch,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “They’ve been probably the most improved team each week when you watch them on tape. We’re looking forward to taking a lot of these Florida kids up to the City of (Brotherly) Love, to Philadelphia, to see what we can get done.”
Here are five things to watch when UCF (7-1, 4-0) visits Temple (1-8, 0-5) at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday:
PASSING: UCF senior quarterback Blake Bortles has completed 150 of 222 (67.6 percent) of his attempts this season for 260 yards passing per game and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards twice this year and could be looking at this third 300-yard day. Temple’s pass defense has struggled mightily this season, allowing seven opponents to throw for at least 300 yards and eight different wideouts to pull at least 100 yards receiving.
MAX PROTECTION: Aiding Bortles in the passing game is his offensive line, which has allowed the second-fewest sacks in the American (10) and has only allowed Bortles to be sacked once in his last three games. Temple is tied for second-to-last in the conference with 14 sacks.
STORM CHASER: Storm’s coming: UCF running back Storm Johnson leads the American in rushing yards (719), rushing yards per attempt (5.1) and rushing touchdowns (9). In the final category, he’s actually tied with Temple running back Kenny Harper, who also has nine rushing scores and two more through the air for a season total of 11.
NATION’S BEST: While the Temple defense has had its struggles, sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich leads the nation in solo tackles with 86. Navy’s Cody Peterson trails in second with 66. In the total tackle count, Matakevich is second, with 113, behind San Jose State’s Keith Smith’s 122.
CLOSE ONE: While these teams have drastically different records, the game could end up being closer than expected. To its credit, three of Temple’s losses have come by three points or fewer. The Owls are coming off a 23-20 loss at Rutgers, in which they were just one yard from upsetting the Scarlet Knights on the road before surrendering the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds to play. UCF has won four games this year by seven points or fewer and trailed in the second half, only to come back and win three times.