Tulane at UCF Odds
|Tulane Odds||+19.5 [ADD TO APP]|
|UCF Odds||-19.5 [ADD TO APP]|
|Moneyline||+600/-1115 [ADD TO APP]|
|Over/Under||72.5 [ADD TO APP]|
|Time||Saturday, 2 p.m. ET|
Central Florida and Tulane come limping into this game, both riding two-game losing streaks. And the main issue plaguing them is the same: defense.
The Golden Knights are coming off a heartbreaking 50-49 loss at Memphis last weekend despite an unbelievable performance from quarterback Dillon Gabriel. UCF couldn’t slow Memphis’ offense down in the second half, blowing a 21-point third-quarter lead before missing a potential game-winning field goal as time expired.
That loss put the Knights at 1-2 in the AAC, as they also suffered a penalty riddled loss to Tulsa two weeks before their latest defeat.
Tulane gave a ranked SMU team all it could handle in regulation last Friday before a costly interception on the opening drive of overtime led to the Mustangs hitting the game-winning field goal. The Green Wave blew two huge leads in their first two AAC games against Navy and Houston, putting them at 0-3 in the conference and desperate to put something in the win column.
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Tulane Green Wave
One of the biggest early-season storylines for Tulane is its quarterback change, with Michael Pratt replacing Keon Howard in the first quarter of its blowout win over Southern Miss. Pratt played well enough to earn the starting job moving forward.
While still far from elite, the Tulane passing attack has been much more efficient with Pratt slinging the rock, giving the offense the balance it needed. Facing a porous UCF secondary that was shredded at Memphis, it looks like a good spot for Pratt to have the best game of his young career.
The rushing attack is the strength of the offense, with the Green Wave currently sitting at 10th in the nation in yards per game and running at an impressive five yards per clip. Tulane has a trio of talented running backs that have all put up strong numbers this season, allowing the Green Wave to keep fresh legs in the backfield.
Stephon Huderson and Tyjae Spears are both home-run hitters, averaging a ridiculous 7.0 and 7.4 yards per carry, respectively. Cameron Carroll is the workhorse of the group and leads the team in both rushing attempts and touchdowns. Look for offensive coordinator Will Hall to get these backs going early to help open up an already struggling UCF secondary for Pratt to pick apart.
Tulane has been surprisingly strong against the rush, allowing only 127.6 yards per game and holding opponents to just 3.02 yards per carry. It even fared well against Navy’s triple option, limiting the Midshipmen to 204 yards on 56 attempts.
However, defending the pass has been a different story, as the Green Wave secondary hasn’t slowed anyone down. It ranks near the bottom of the country in opponent yards per game (304.8) and yards per completion (15.88). Those numbers would look even worse if you take out its game against the run-heavy Navy offense that only attempted 12 passes.
The pass defense has looked particularly weak the last two outings against strong competition, allowing 319 yards against Houston and 384 to SMU. Both teams were able to rip off throws downfield as well. This is bad news, with the red-hot Gabriel coming to town to give the Mustang defense its toughest test to date by far.
If there’s one thing you can’t blame UCF’s disappointing start on, it’s the offense. The Golden Knights lead the nation in both total and passing offense, thanks to sophomore quarterback Gabriel, who’s been flat-out brilliant.
Gabriel boasts a video game-like stat line through four games, compiling 1,756 passing yards to go along with 14 touchdowns and just two picks. Gabriel did all he could in last week’s loss to Memphis, throwing for 601 yards and five scores. He also ran for a touchdown, putting the Knights in position for a game-winning field goal attempt in an impressive drive in the game’s final minute.
What makes Gabriel so dangerous is his accuracy. He has the ability to pick teams apart on short throws and is even more dangerous slinging it downfield. He’s also great at extending plays and throwing outside of the pocket.
Gabriel’s weapons on the outside are talented and off to a great start as well. The tandem of Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson has proven to be one of the nation’s top receiving duos. Williams has been an absolute machine, already hauling in 45 passes and leading the country at 144.75 yards per game.
Robinson’s production isn’t far behind, as he’s hauled in 28 passes for 539 yards and four touchdowns. Throw in another big-play threat in Ryan O’Keefe (28 yards per catch) and reliable tight end in Jacob Harris, and this group is very difficult to cover.
The Golden Knights don’t run the ball a whole lot, but they have been effective when they do. The tandem of Otis Anderson and Greg McCrae have combined for more than 500 yards, with the team boasting a solid 4.6 yards per carry.
First-year offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has done a solid job calling plays and knows when to mix in some runs to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
As was very apparent last week, the Knights’ defense has some major issues. For starters, the secondary play has been poor, with the defense surrendering more than 300 yards per game through the air. This unit was hit hard with player opt-outs prior to the season’s start, with three defensive backs choosing to skip the season, including projected starting cornerback Tay Gowan.
When facing its toughest quarterback to date in Memphis’ Brady White last week, the UCF secondary offered no resistance, allowing White to torch it for 486 yards and five touchdowns with no picks. The lack of depth and talent in the secondary is glaring and makes it hard to envision any sort of improvement from the group in the near future.
The Golden Knights haven’t been able to stop opponents on the ground, either. Giving up runs at 4.56 yards a clip is bad news, especially when a team also can’t shut down an opposing passing attack. The Knights will need to slow down the Tulane rushing attack early. Otherwise, the Tulane game plan will be easy, and opportunities will open for Pratt to find receivers.
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Betting Analysis & Pick
With two of the nation’s worst defenses and one of the top offenses featured in this game, it’s no secret that we’ll see some points. The total currently reflects this at 72.5 points, up from the opening number of 70. But I still don’t think it’s high enough.
Central Florida’s offense is one of the nation’s best at creating explosive plays, and its defense is one of the worst at defending them.
Tulane’s defense has really struggled the last two games when facing strong quarterbacks, and now it’s up against a different animal in Gabriel and the speedy UCF receivers.
If you’re looking for a game with fireworks, that’s exactly what you’ll find here. Don’t let the big number scare you. Take the over, and enjoy watching the scoreboard light up.
Pick: Over 72.5 (up to 76)