Free College Football Week 3 Picks - Maryland Terrapins vs UCF Knights

UCF Knights players running in field

Thursday, September 15, 2016 8:20 PM GMT

UCF hit rock bottom last season in a winless 2015 campaign, but the future is bright under new head coach Scott Frost. Read on for your NCAAF pick and betting preview. 

Maryland Terrapins (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
New head coach D.J. Durkin is on a mission to woo some young Florida recruits as he leads the Terps to back-to-back games in the Sunshine State when they take on UCF Saturday. Maryland roughed up Florida International 41-14 last Friday in Miami as an 11.5-point favorite.

Durkin is 2-0 to start his head-coaching career, outscoring opponents 93-27, though the opener was against lowly Howard. The former Michigan defensive coordinator has set up a more aggressive scheme for the Terps this season, taking advantage of an athletic secondary. He’s rolling out more man-to-man coverage, and working out of both 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.

The unit allowed respectable 5.4 yards per play last season but was horrible in the red zone. Opponents scored on 90 percent of possessions (112th in FBS) in the danger zone. Maryland yielded 28 points or more in nine games, and at least 40 points five times. It gets its first real test of the season against the Knights.

Thus far the offense looks much-improved from last year. The up-tempo scheme is leaning on a potent rushing attack, not forced to go to the air much protecting big leads in each of its first two games. When the unit takes to the passing game, it’s been A-OK. Quarterback Perry Hills and wide receiver D.J. Moore have connected 10 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns.

Here’s the best news for Maryland fans: after leading the nation in interceptions thrown in 2015 (2.5 per game), it has not offered a turnover. They are one of seven FBS teams yet to cough it up, as the new coaching regime puts the players through ball-security drills and film study daily.

Maryland is 5-2 ATS in its last seven as road chalk, though it’s a rare occurrence with the trend stretching back to 2008. Against the nascent AAC, the Terps are 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS. Like Saturday, they’ve kicked off a touchdown favorite or greater in each.

 

UCF Knights (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)
New head coach Scott Frost was one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the nation when he took the job at UCF this offseason. Good news for a program that is 0-14 SU and 2-12 ATS in its last 14 against FBS opponents. Frost spent seven years at Oregon, two as offensive coordinator, and is one of the architects of the hurry-up “Blur Offense” that helped the Ducks rank in the top five nationally in scoring in as many years.

Part of the offense’s effectiveness is keeping pace and testing defenses with fresh bodies. Frost will rotate up to five or six rushers in the backfield. Thus far the unit is averaging 236 yards on 50.5 carries per game.

The Knights were 25.5-point favorites against South Carolina State in the opener, and 35.5-point pups against Michigan last weekend, so this will be the first “even” test for Frost and the offense. One thing is for sure, the passing game needs improvement. Quarterbacks Nick Patti and Justin Holman totaled 56 yards combined through the air, each going 3-for-11 passing in the 51-14 loss to the Wolverines at the Big House on Saturday.

Although Frost is an offensive guru, the defense appears the most improved through two games. It’s shown increased physicality and better toughness at the point of attack, even holding Michigan’s power run game in-check with just 119 rushing yards allowed—though it did yield 447 yards of total offense overall.

The secondary is made up entirely of seniors and may be the most talented group on the team let alone the defense. It is led by Iowa State transfer safety T.J. Mutcherson, and Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Killings at the corners.

 

Final Analysis
Maryland should come out the victor in this one, but whichever team stops the run best will likely top the point spread. The Knights managed 6.0 yards per carry against the vaunted Wolverines unit, and should be able to keep at it against the Terps, even if the visitors stack the box.

The spread is all over the place on Thursday for this contest, ranging from -8 to -9.5 depending on the shop, showing exactly why multiple sportsbook accounts come in handy at this time of year. We’ll take the +9.5 points with the Knights for our week 3 college football picks

 

Free NCAAF Pick: UCF Knights +9.5 -110
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