Sunshine State Showdown: Can UCF Pull off The Upset Over The Hurricanes?

Allen Levin@@TheNBAllenCorrespondent IIOctober 17, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 29: George O'Leary, head coach of the UCF Knights, watches the action from the sideline during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on December 29, 2007 at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bulldogs beat the Knights 10-3. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Finally, the highly anticipated matchup between the UCF Knights (3-2) and the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes (4-1) is upon us. Tonight, UCF will host the nationally ranked Hurricanes in what is their biggest home game and highest ranked opponent the Knights have faced since they played No. 6 Texas in the debut of their new stadium in 2007.

UCF is set to play in front of a sold out Bright House Networks Stadium that will undoubtedly be filled with electricity, intensity, and rowdy home fans. In addition, the game will be played in front of a national audience on ESPN. So, the stage is set for epic showdown between two in-state squads, but the question is: Can UCF pull off the upset?

The Hurricanes come to Orlando to face the Knights for the rematch of last year's game in Miami, where the Canes' defeated the Knights 20-14 in a close, but sloppy battle.

However, Miami is a much improved team from last year and is back in the national spotlight. They are being led by sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, who has thrown 10 touchdown passes and 1225 yards in five games this year.

Miami has won two straight games since their sole loss against No. 4 ranked Virgina Tech, which includes a victory over No. 20 Oklahoma. They are looking to go 5-1 for the first time in four seasons.

UCF will certainly have its handful with the Hurricanes, which has been their only worthy opponent to date this season other than East Carolina. For the Knights to pull off the upset, they are going to need to play smart and efficiently and play their best ball of the season.

First of all, they need to stop Miami's offense.

Harris is going to be a handful to deal with. He is going to attempt to dominate the air game, and UCF will have to stop his strong passing game if they are going to have a chance.

The Hurricanes also have a good rushing attack with Javarris James and Graig Cooper sharing the running game. The duo has combined for 497 yards and four touchdowns. Unlike previous UCF opponents, Miami has a very effective running game and can use it to punish the Knights. 

However, the Knights have one of the best rush defenses in college football and need to utilize it. They have allowed 472 rush yards this season, which ranks 12th in NCAA and have only allowed two rushing touchdowns, which is tied for third best in the nation. They will need to be consistent with those statistics if they want to stop James and Cooper.

Fortunately for the Knights, Miami's defense will be short-handed with injuries to starting defensive end Eric Moncur and starting safety Randy Phillips keeping them out of the game. The Canes' will also be missing defensive tackles Marcus Forston and Josh Holmes and DB Randy Phillips due to injuries.

The Knights will look to punish Miami's thin defensive line by utilizing their newest star, running back Brynn Harvey. The sophomore back has elevated his game recently and is starting to become UCF's most reliable offensive threat. He leads the team with 536 yards and six rushing touchdowns.

Two weeks ago against Memphis, Harvey had his breakthrough game. He posted 42 carries—the most nationally so far this season—for 219 yards and one TD in a 32-14 win over the Tigers.

On top of that, UCF has a big home field advantage. Bright House Networks is where the Knights play their best football. They are 3-0 at home this year and their is a noticeable difference in their performance away from Orlando. They average 27.7 points per game at home, while they average 16.5 points on the road. Conversely, they allow 18 points per game at home, while they give up 22.5 on the road.

UCF is an effective home team that can take care of business on their home field. Additionally, the home fans will be extraordinarily pumped and rowdy for this game. The energy in the stadium promises to be electric with a sold out crowd and a loud audience that does not get to see ranked teams regularly. 

The Knights are a dangerous home team that have an opportunity to topple the beast Saturday night. UCF is 0-19 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 and they have a chance to change that tonight and make history for their program.