ORLANDO - UCF is now 4-3 and will face a Temple team that went 3-4 so far during the 2021 season. After a resounding win over Memphis, UCF has a chance to gain momentum versus a team that struggled to score during its last two contests, losing 52-3 to Cincinnati and losing 34-14 to USF.
The Knights need to create more passing yardage and big plays, which will be focused upon during this report. Here’s a first look at the defenses and how they compare, before moving onto the offensive side of the football.
Inside The Defensive Numbers
As noted with their No. 4 national ranking, Temple’s pass defense played very well thus far in 2021. There needs to be a note about which teams the Owls played so far, however, as Temple played poor passing offenses.
In order of when the games took place, Temple played at Akron (No. 88), at Rutgers (No. 85), Boston College, Wagner (non-FBS), Memphis (17), at Cincinnati (67) and at South Florida (113) so far this season.
Excluding Memphis, Temple did not face a team that truly should be considered a passing offense. Even Cincinnati, a really good football team, runs the football more than passes because of its reliance on winning games with an elite defense and does not risk much via the passing game.
Looking at the rushing defensive numbers, Temple simply does not play good run defense. They have played Cincinnati (No. 44) and South Florida (No. 50) teams with solid running games, but they are the only two teams the Owls faced ranked in the top 50 of the NCAA rankings.
UCF's passing defense played fantastic versus Memphis. Will the Knights perform similarly this next Saturday versus Temple? If cornerbacks like Justin Hodges perform well again, the UCF defense should do well.
Moving to the offensive side of the football, UCF’s defense will be presented with facing a struggling Temple offense, while the Knights look to find a way to get their passing attack going.
Inside the Offensive Numbers
Much like with Temple’s pass defense, UCF’s passing offense can be misleading. Not that it’s great at No. 84, but those numbers include the first three contests when the Knights utilized the talents of quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
Since Mikey Keene took over at quarterback, the UCF passing game stalled. He’s averaged just 144.0 yards passing per game. If that number was representative of the entire season, UCF’s passing offense would currently be ranked No. 124 out of 130 FBS teams.
Temple’s passing defensive statistics might be misleading considering which teams they played thus far, but UCF’s passing attack struggled mightily since Keene took over. If the Knights do not improve their passing game against the Owls, there’s a chance that a mediocre team could knock off UCF.
That being pointed out, UCF’s defense will face a very poor Temple offense. Not being ranked inside the NCAA’s top 50 in any of points per game, rushing yards per game or passing yards per game means UCF should dominate the Owls’ offense.
Other Key Statistics to Note
Temple intercepted just three passes this season. Oddly, two of those interceptions came by way of defensive end Manny Walker, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Considering the low number of interceptions and the Owls still being the No. 4 passing defense in the nation, one would probably assume that Temple rushes the quarterback well. Actually, that’s not the case.
Temple recorded just 10 sacks (No. 114) so far this season. Therefore, if UCF cannot find a way to throw the football against Temple, that would be reason for serious concern prior to Gabriel returning to the lineup for the Knights. That scenario appears to be likely based on hints from Head Coach Gus Malzahn during Friday night’s postgame press conference.
Moving to the Temple offense, wide receiver Randle Jones caught just 18 passes this season, but he averaged 18.9 yards per reception and grabbed three of the eight touchdown passes thrown by Temple quarterbacks this season.
Look for a detailed look at Temple’s top overall players on Tuesday from Inside The Knights.
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