By Diego Navarro
The UFC Nights are heading into their sixth game of this crazy 2020 college football season. Thus far, they have played solid ball, owning a 3-2 record.
After taking back to back losses to Tulsa and Memphis, there was a lot at stake with last weekend’s match against the Tulane Green Waves. The UFC Knights bounced back from their losses and put up 51 points on the Waves, thus securing their 3rd victory of the season.
Meanwhile, the Houston Cougars are only playing their 4th game this season. They got a 41 to 31 win over Tulane before getting smashed 43 to 26 by the BYU Cougars; then, they got a bounce-back win last weekend over Navy to the 37-21.
When you look at their performances against a common denominator (Tulane), they came away with similar numbers. The Cougars beat the Green Waves 41-31, and the Knights beat the Green Waves 52-34. So, the Knights finished with a better margin of victory, but they both performed in a similar fashion.
UCF is ranked No. 20 on the college football power rating boards. They should be able to beat an average team by 11.3 points. Meanwhile, Houston is ranked back at No. 42 in the power ratings with a number of 5.2. So, if we give the Houston Cougars three points for home-field advantage, we end up with a basic point spread of 3 points. This is near where the college football lines opened – 3.5 points, also, you can check the full list of lines at SBR for the rest of the games.
However, action has gone the home team, moving the line down to just 2.5. Now we are starting to see some value against this number for the UCF Knights.
UCF is averaging 43.75 points of offense per game. Defensively they are a bit soft, allowing 33.25 per game. On the flip side, the Houston Cougars are scoring at a clip of 37.5 points per game while allowing 37.
The difference-maker in this game is the UCF Knights No. 1 passing attack. They have one of the most dynamic QBs in the game and average an incredible 439 passing yards per game. But, defenses can’t cheat the pass because the Knights have the No. 20 ranked rushing attack with 197.25 yards per game. How do the Cougars compare? Well, they are No. 107 in passing yards and No. 56 in rushing yards.
But perhaps the most important handicapping stat that exists is yards per play. The Knights are 8th in NCAAF with 7.01 YPP. Conversely, the Cougars are 79th with 5.26. When you consider how badly the BYU Cougars torched the Houston Cougars a few weeks ago, I think a similar dynamic will happen with UCF. Zack Wilson dropped 400 yards and 4 TDs on the Houston defense, so you can bet that UCF head coach, Josh Heupel, is looking at the parallels and studying tape. I just don’t think Houston will be able to keep up with Dillon Gabriel’s pass attack.
That said, the Cougars will score, which is why the TOTAL has been set at OVER/UNDER 82.5 points. I believe we’ll see the UNDER cash in, but I’m not confident enough to put my money where my mouth is in that regard. This could turn into a shoot-out ending in a 50-43-type score. Heck, that Loss to Memphis was 49-50, almost busting into triple-digits. That said, now that the spread is off the key number of three, I love the Knights to cover the number.
Sportsline predicts the score will be a 40-34 victory for the Knights. Their model implies that the UCF Knights will cover the number and cash the UNDER. It should be noted that sportsbooks released the original TOTAL number at 76.5. Heavy action pushed the line almost immediately to 78. Then it went up to 78.5 and has nickeled its way all the way up to 82.5 because of massive public action.
I believe that the first 1.5-point jump was sharp money. But since then, It’s likely just public Joes jumping on the OVER like they always do. So, now that I am digging a little deeper and talking out loud to myself, there is some value in taking UNDER 82.5 as well.