FIU Lacks the Weapons to Keep Up with Central Florida

central florida football

Rainman M.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 1:55 PM GMT

Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017 1:55 PM GMT

Central Florida is currently favored by 17 points in its season opener Thursday at home vs Florida International. UCF enjoys multiple matchup advantages against FIU that should help the Knights cover. 

UCF: An Offense Growing in Respectability

Under first-year coach Scott Frost, Central Florida went from being a winless team in 2015 to a 6-win team in 2016. A big reason for the improvement was the transition to a "UCFast" system: The Knights were 38th in plays per game last season because Frost wanted them to pick up the tempo. A fast tempo makes it difficult for an opposing defense to make necessary adjustments and make substitutions, meaning that defenders will become more quickly fatigued. The thing is, a quick-paced offense takes a lot of practice to run. UCF returns key offensive players who will enter their second year under Frost. Beginning Thursday, we should see an even more efficient unit.

Efficiency is key because UCF lacks that big playmaker or even a quarterback with a big arm that can take over a game by himself. McKenzie Milton is UCF's rising sophomore quarterback. The dual-threat talent has drawn comparisons to the likes of Marcus Mariota and caught the attention of former Pro Bowl quarterbacks such as Donovan McNabb. He won't get the ball deep down the field with his arm, but Milton is a playmaker who makes use of the talent that he has round him.

Milton's best target is Tre'Quan Smith. He is the undisputed No. 1 receiver, partly thanks to departing talent and Tristan Payton's suspension. Smith is best known for his big-play circus catches and produced a very respectable 853 yards last season. UCF's offensive line is not reliable, but also doesn't create a huge problem because of Milton's mobility. FIU returns most defensive players, but the ones they do miss includes their leader at linebacker, Davison Colmon, and some meat in the interior line.

 

Can FIU Keep Up with UCF?

A large part of UCF's success last season stemmed from its strong defensive play, but the Knights lost all four starters from the secondary. UCF's most exciting new face back there should be Alabama transfer Shawn Burgess-Becker, whom UCF coaches have been touting as an offseason standout. FIU does not have the offensive firepower with which to exploit that weakness. 

The Golden Panthers return a lot of experience on offense, but also bring in an entirely new coaching staff. I love head  coach Butch Davis as a selection in the long run because he has proven to be able to turn teams around -- has anybody forgotten the 2001 Miami Hurricanes? But this is Davis' first year. QB Alex McGough boasts all of 3 career 300-yard passing games in his career at FIU. So he's not the guy one wants to exploit a weakened secondary. The rising senior is also coming off of his worst year, where he threw almost as many interceptions (11) as touchdowns (13).

While FIU does have a respectable running attack with the speedy duo of Alex Gardner and Anthony Jones, it shares UCF's problems up front with blocking. While UCF's offensive line will not get punished for its deficiencies because of Milton's mobility and FIU's own weaknesses and departures on the defensive line, the same cannot be said for FIU. Central Florida's strength will be its defensive line. It was one of the nation's most underrated last season in the first year with defensive coordinator Erik Chinander's 3-4 system. Tony Guerad surprised in 2016 by leading the line with 62 tackles. He will be helped by senior Jamiyus Pittman and a lot more.

 

The Verdict

The key is in the trenches on our college football picks. UCF can run down FIU's throat, while FIU lacks the interior line to put up a fight. The Golden Panthers lack the big-play quarterback to keep up with UCF's offense. FIU will also struggle to mount a rushing attack behind an offensive line that will be outmatched by the depth and talent of the Knights' defensive line.

Free NCAAF Pick: UCF -17Best Line Offered: Heritage

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