UCF vs. Louisville: Strengths and Weaknesses for Golden Knights and Cardinals
The UCF Golden Knights travel to Louisville to take on the eighth-ranked Cardinals. This is the first real test for the Cardinals, who have so far played mostly cupcakes.
In order to break down what should be a fun game, we'll look at the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.
UCF is led by quarterback Blake Bortles. The 6'4" junior signal-caller is having a fine season and will be playing on Sundays in the near future. He's thrown for 1,334 yards, nine touchdowns, an impressive 64.8 completion percentage and only three picks.
The Golden Knights are 39th in passing offense, throwing for 270 yards a game, and they put up 31.8 points per game. Breshad Perriman is a big-play receiver who averages 22.1 yards per reception.
On the other side of the ball, the Knights have the 10th-ranked defense in the nation, giving up 16.6 points per game.
Further, UCF has shown that it can be competitive. They beat Penn State in Happy Valley, and they lost by just three points to South Carolina. They may not be a Top 25 team, but they are scrappy and have enough talent to stay in games.
UCF, like Louisville, has padded its stats against lesser opponents. They beat up Akron and Florida International, winning by 31 points and 38 points, respectively.
It's not really their fault that the American Athletic Conference isn't that good. But it does call into question their credentials. If you take away the Penn State and South Carolina games, the Knights give up just eight points a game. That's great. But they gave up an average of nearly 30 points against Penn State and South Carolina.
How will they respond to an electric Louisville offense, undoubtedly the best offense they've faced all season? Tough to say, because the sample size is really too small.
Looking at the team as a whole, there are no glaring weaknesses. They're not great, but they are a solid team. That said, there are legitimate questions. Are they just a really good AAC team that has some pro talent? Is Blake Bortles—a guy I'm really high on—a good quarterback because of the competition?
Louisville provides a nice test, and if UCF pulls off the upset I'll be ready to call them for real. But because the AAC is so weak and because the difference in defensive stats between the two games against "good" teams versus the other games, I think it's quite difficult to call them a good team.
Obviously, the most notable aspect of this team is Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is a Heisman contender and a potential future No. 1 overall pick. He's thrown for 1,872 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two picks.
He's leading an offense that's absolutely steamrolled opponents. They average 41 points per game and dropped 70 points on poor Florida International.
Senorise Perry and Dominique Brown both average six yards per carry, and Damian Copeland and DeVante Parker are fine receivers.
And it's not just the offense. The defense is getting the job done, as well. They are actually the No. 1 defense in the country, giving up a minuscule 7.3 points per game.
They're ranked eighth in the country for a reason. They are well-rounded and have one of the best players in the nation in Bridgewater.
The question that could decide their BCS fate—just how good is Louisville?
They've played a ridiculously easy schedule. The best team they've faced, Rutgers, is really not that good. And they only beat the Scarlet Knights by 14 points.
The Cardinals have beaten up on some of the worst of the FCS. FIU, Ohio, Temple and Eastern Kentucky did not have a chance against Louisville.
UCF is probably the best team Louisville will face before a bowl game. It's safe to ask whether Louisville could stand up against Alabama or Oregon.
There's no doubting that Bridgewater is a great player. But FIU's defense gives up 39.5 points per game, which is 120th in the nation. Temple gives up 29 points per game. It's reasonable to wonder just how good Bridgewater is. How much is his talent, and how much is a product of the lack of talent he's facing?
Again, we can't really answer these questions until their bowl game, and UCF does represent a good test. If Louisville blows UCF out of the water, then we can say with more certainty that they are for real. If they struggle, or even lose, then Louisville's credentials have to be put into question.
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