Undefeated No. 15 UCF vs. bowl-eligible SMU to open November
DALLAS (AP) — UCF’s Scott Frost and SMU’s Chad Morris have each won 13 games in their current jobs. Both have made impressive progress, though at different rates after leaving offensive coordinator roles at Power Five schools to take over programs that had hit bottom.
The 15th-ranked Knights (7-0, 4-0 AAC), now in Frost’s second season, are one of only five remaining undefeated FBS teams. The Knights also are the only Group of Five team without a loss, putting them on track for a New Year’s Six bowl game if they keep winning.
“There’s no leeway when it comes to us losing a game,” UCF receiver Dredrick Snelson said. “We know what we have to do.”
A week after scoring a school-record 73 points in a game against FCS team Austin Peay that wasn’t on their original schedule, the Knights get back into American Athletic play Saturday night at SMU (6-2, 3-1).
“I want our guys to have the mindset that it’s a four-game season now,” said Frost, the former Oregon offensive coordinator. “I want our entire organization to see it as an opportunity, not a pressure-filled situation that we’re trying to hold onto something.”
UCF was 0-12 the season before Frost arrived, but improved to 6-7 with a bowl berth last year in his debut.
Morris was offensive coordinator at Clemson when he was introduced as SMU’s coach in December 2014. The Mustangs were 0-11 then, and avoided a winless season by winning their finale under interim coach Tom Mason at Connecticut five days later. After going 2-10 in 2015, they improved to 5-7 last year but missed bowl eligibility by losing their finale.
After a comeback 38-34 win over Tulsa last week, the Mustangs start November already bowl eligible for the first time since 2012. They are 6-2 for the first time since 1984, and 5-0 at home since 1982.
“We reached a milestone win in our program to become bowl eligible,” Morris said. “It’s not the final goal, it’s not that we’ve achieved exactly what we set out for this season. There’s more ahead, there’s a lot of ball left ahead, but we had to get to this point in this program.”
Some things to know when two of the nation’s best offenses meet:
UCF is the top scorer among FBS teams at 51 points per game. The Knights have won every game by scoring more than 30 points and finishing with a double-figure margin. Only one game was decided by less than 27 points. SMU is second to UCF in the American Athletic Conference with 42 points per game. Both teams average more than 500 total yards.
CATCH AFTER CATCH
SMU’s Trey Quinn leads the nation with 9.9 catches per game (79 total), and is fourth nationally with 109.3 yards receiving per game. The LSU transfer had seven touchdowns. The Mustangs also still have standout receiver Courtland Sutton , who has nine TDs among his 43 catches for 706 yards.
The early part of UCF’s schedule was altered by multiple hurricanes. The Knights had to move up their opener two days, had to push a Sept. 9 game against Memphis back three weeks, knocking FCS Maine off the schedule, and had to cancel a Sept. 16 game against Georgia Tech. Without a common makeup date for Georgia Tech, the Knights added Austin Peay but still will have only 11 regular-season games. UCF won 73-33, though Frost wasn’t pleased with some missed tackles and penalties.
“Even though we came out with a ‘W,’ our standards are so high that we feel like we didn’t accomplish what we needed to,” linebacker Shaquem Griffin said. “It’s important that we make sure we stay to the small things, and make sure we’re doing it because it’s going to make us a great team.”
MORE TO DO
SMU cornerback Jordan Wyatt said getting bowl eligible is a “huge accomplishment” but that the Mustangs aren’t satisfied. They could make a big statement if they upend undefeated UCF.
“This is a great opportunity to show what we can do on a national stage against a really good opponent. ... To knock them off would give us a lot of respect, a lot of recognition,” Wyatt said.