No. 17 UCF has hosted a lot of big games in recent years but the number of Power Five opponents that have made the trip to Orlando have been few and far between. Judging by the results of the Knights’ latest effort, there might be a reason for that.
The AAC banner-carriers trounced the visitors from the opposite coast in Stanford on Saturday afternoon, winning 45-27 in a contest that was far more lopsided than even that scoreline indicated.
True freshman Gabriel Dillon made the most of his first start in the friendly confines of the Bounce House, throwing for 347 yards and four touchdowns against a secondary headlined by All-Pac-12 first team corner Paulson Adebo. The young signal-caller’s rapid release made it easy for the Knights offense to roll up 545 yards and kept the Cardinal linebackers guessing on nearly every snap. Tailbacks Greg McCrae and Adrian Killins combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, with the latter breaking off a 73-yarder and scoring a short touchdown to boot.
While everything seemed to go right for the home side — including four first quarter touchdowns to take the lead and never look back — the opposite was true for the one-time Pac-12 dark horses. QB K.J. Costello had a rough return to action after missing last week with a head injury, throwing for 199 yards and a touchdown while nearly tossing a pick-six as well. The Cardinal ground game was lackluster at best too, barely topping the century mark on the ground and being abandoned for the most part in the second half given the large deficit.
The loss was especially disappointing for the school’s most famous local alums as golfer Tiger Woods was visibly upset for most of the sweltering afternoon on the sidelines as his Stanford football team failed to keep up with their opponents from the AAC.
As for those Knights, the victory is certainly a nice feather in their cap given the rarity of Power Five victories on their slate over this incredible run the past few seasons. They will likely have a shot to move up in the polls come Sunday and have another crack at a win against a major conference when they travel to Pitt next weekend. All told it was their 27th straight victory in the regular season and one of their most impressive yet given the destruction they left in their wake between the lines.
The most anticipated home game for UCF in several years might turn out to be over before the end of the first quarter.
The No. 17 Knights jumped on Power Five foe Stanford with four touchdowns in the first frame and cruised to an impressive 38-7 lead over the visitors from the other side of the country going into halftime.
The lopsided nature of the contest went well beyond the scoreboard as the Cardinal couldn’t find much to go right on either side of the ball. Quarterback K.J. Costello returned to action after missing the USC game last week but was fairly ineffective in the Florida heat, throwing for 61 yards and one interception that was nearly returned for a pick-six. Tailback Austin Jones did provide a brief highlight with 69 yards rushing and a touchdown but an offense not exactly built to score a bunch of points will need to do just that if they even want to make the outcome a respectable one.
Maybe more concerning for David Shaw was the defensive effort as UCF looked two steps quicker on each snap. Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel looked like he was the Power Five signal-caller in just his second start, throwing for 250 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Greg McCrae chipped in with a 94 yards on the ground before the break and scored from one yard out to capitalize on that earlier interception forced by the UCF defense.
All told, the Knights averaged nearly 10 yards per play in the early blitz while holding their opponents to less than half that.
The ever confident UCF fan base continues to stick their chest out that they can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the Power Five and based on the performance so far against Stanford, the team is well on their way to getting a pretty big notch on their belts to that end.
If Northwestern is to bounce back from its season-opening loss, it’ll do so without a player expected to again be a significant contributor in its running game.
In the Week 1 setback to Stanford, Isaiah Bowser went down with an unspecified injury to his knee. With the Wildcats on a bye in Week 2, it was hoped that the running back would be healthy enough to take the field in Week 3.
Unfortunately for both the player and the football program, Bowser Thursday was officially ruled out for Saturday’s non-conference matchup with UNLV. As is standard, the program didn’t detail the nature of the injury that will sideline the back.
Bowser’s 54 yards on 10 carries against the Cardinal led the Wildcats. Last season, he led the team with 866 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
With Bowser out, Drake Anderson (two carries, five yards in the opener) is expected to take over as the bell cow in NU’s running game.
A quick primer on who, what and where to look for/at as we head into Week 3 of the 2019 college football season.
WEEK 3 STORYLINES
- When ESPN‘s College GameDay traveling roadshow sets up camp in Ames for a game that decides the winner of the aptly-named Cy-Hawk Trophy, you know you’re in for, at least on paper, a light weekend of football schedule-wise. Thanks to Syracuse tripping over itself in Week 2 and Iowa State nearly getting knocked off by an FCS opponent in the opener, it’s Blutarsky’s GPA when it comes to Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchups in Week 3. The last time there were no ranked teams facing each other? Oct. 14, 2017 — and No. 2 Clemson was knocked off by unranked Syracuse on the road that weekend. This weekend, No. 1 Clemson faces… unranked Syracuse… on the road.
- It’s only Week 3, but Jeremy Pruitt and Chip Kelly are in more dire need of a win than any white man in history. Pruitt has Tennessee off to its worst start to a season since 1988; under Kelly, UCLA has started a season 0-2 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since World War II. Fortunately for UT, FCS Chattanooga is on tap and the Viols are 28-point favorites (then again, they were 26-point favorites over Georgia State and we all know how that turned out). Unfortunately for UCLA — but fortunately for those looking to score free tickets — No. 5 Oklahoma is up next. If/when the Bruins suffer what seems like an inevitable loss, it will mark the first time since 1920-21 that they have gone 0-3 in back-to-back seasons.
- In the first two games of the 2019 season, Florida State’s defense has allowed a combined 54 second-half points in a 1-1 start that includes the season-opening collapse against Boise State. Enter Jim Leavitt, who Willie Taggart added this week in a defensive analyst role. Leavitt served as Taggart’s defensive coordinator during the latter’s one-and-done season as Oregon’s head coach. During his two seasons in Eugene, the Ducks finished tied for 63rd nationally in scoring defense in 2018 (27 points per game) and 77th in 2017 (28.3 ppg); the year prior to Leavitt’s arrival, they were 126th (out of 128 FBS teams at the time) at 41.4 ppg. FSU travels to Charlottesville Saturday to face No. 25 Virginia.
- With a Week 2 win over Western Michigan, Mark Dantonio tied Duffy Daugherty‘s Michigan State record for most career wins at 109. If, unlike last year, No. 18 MSU can handle Arizona State this weekend, Dantonio, in the midst of his 13th season with the Spartans, will surpass the College Football Hall of Famer and stand alone in school lore with 110 wins.
- No. 21 Maryland will take on Temple this weekend. Maryland is leading the nation in scoring at 71 points per game (Penn State is next at 62); Temple is tied for 18th in the country in scoring defense at 12 ppg.
- So, as you see, these notes signal very loudly that Week 3 is light in the britches and short in the wallet, as my grandfather used to say to describe one of his not-so-favorite sons-in-law. Which, of course, means that utter and absolute chaos will very likely ensue…
SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES
- No. 6 Ohio State (-16½) at Indiana — Each of the past three seasons, a ranked OSU team lost to an unranked Big Ten opponent on the road in a game in which they were favored. Are the Hoosiers the Buckeyes’ trap-game Waterloo this season?
- No. 19 Iowa (-2) at Iowa State — As referenced earlier, this would’ve been a Top 25 matchup if then-No. 21 Iowa State hadn’t barely escaped Northern Iowa in triple overtime and dropped out of the rankings as a result. The Hawkeyes have won the last four games in the rivalry; the Cyclones last home win in the series came in 2011.
- No. 20 Washington State (-9) vs. Houston — This Friday-night, neutral-site affair is mentor vs. protégé as Wazzu’s Mike Leach had Houston’s Dana Holgorsen on his Texas Tech coaching staff from 2000-09. Not only will this be the first time Leach and Holgorsen have been on opposing sidelines as head coaches, it’ll also be the first time since 1988 — and just the fourth time ever — the two schools have squared off in football.
- No. 2 Alabama (-25½) at South Carolina — Alabama will be playing its first true road game of the 2019 season. The last time these two teams met at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks upset the top-ranked Crimson Tide in 2010. Unless I’m mistaken, though, neither Stephen Garcia nor Marcus Lattimore nor Alshon Jeffery will be suiting up this weekend.
- Stanford at No. 17 UCF (-7½) — UCF will have two regular-season chances to prove its worth to national pundits against Power Five foes — this one at home, in Week 4 vs. Pitt. Stanford is coming off a 25-point drubbing at the hands of USC that dropped them out of the Top 25, while UCF has beaten FAMU and FAU by a combined score of 110-14.
- No. 9 Florida (-8) at Kentucky — If there’s a revenge game in Week 3 and despite the public pronouncements, it’s this one. Week 2 last year, Kentucky beat Florida for the first time since Nov. 15, 1986, ending the Wildcats’ streak of 31 straight losses to the Gators. That game was in Gainesville; this one is in Lexington.
BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 3
- BEST: No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse (+28). Clemson is, obviously, the better team, but on this weekend they won’t be four touchdowns better than Syracuse at home — the Orange’s spitting the bed against Maryland in Week 2 notwithstanding.
- WORST: No. 5 Oklahoma at UCLA (+22½). Take the Bruins and the points at your own peril as the Sooners are primed to deal out a historic beatdown on Chip Kelly‘s woebegone squad.
- COVER SPECIAL: Hawaii (+21) at No. 23 Washington. Hawaii has beaten two Pac-12 opponents (Arizona, Oregon State) to start the 2019 season. Run, don’t walk, to your cyber betting window and lay that money on the Rainbow Warriors to cover.
HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH
- Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 1) — Three touchdowns and 259 yards passing in a half’s worth of Week 2 work vs. an FCS foe would’ve been more than enough to maintain the top slot; working out like a boss immediately after the win and prior to the postgame press conference solidified it.
- Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (No. 8) — Nine touchdown passes in two games this season for Burrow, giving him 25 in 15 appearances since transferring from Ohio State to LSU; in the two years prior to his arrival, Tiger quarterbacks accounted for 29 in 25 games.
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (No. 2) — In just over a half of play vs. New Mexico State, the junior completed 16-of-24 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored another on the ground.
- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (No. 5) — In his first two career starts, the Georgia transfer has been responsible for nine total touchdowns (six passing, three rushing).
- Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (No. 4) — Taylor has three receiving touchdowns in two games after never catching one his first two seasons. Oh, and he also has five touchdowns on the ground for good measure.
- Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (No. 6) — Even in a loss to Burrow’s Tigers, Ehlinger shined statistically as he totaled 401 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (No. 7) — The sophomore has been fair to middlin’ the first two games, throwing more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two).
- Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (No. 9) — Five touchdowns, 310 yards passing in a blowout win over Nevada in Week 2.
- Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (No. 3) — After 205 yards and three touchdowns in the opener, he put up 53 and zero in Week 2.
- Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (No. 10) — As the token non-QB/RB, Jeudy is making a case to be taken out of the No. 10 slot as this past weekend he tied a school single-game record with three receiving touchdowns. The junior’s statline this season is 18-240-4.
(DROPPED OUT: None)
WEEK 3 BRAZEN PREDICTIONS
BRYAN FISCHER (@BryanDFischer): Given the slate of lackluster matchups (editor’s note: that’s being way too kind), I think we’re in for some chaos this weekend. I’ll go with four ranked teams getting upset on Saturday, with at least two getting upended at home.
ZACH BARNETT (@zach_barnett): Tennessee drops to 0-3. See the thing people don’t understand about Chattanooga is… okay, no. Mack Brown springs his third straight upset, moving the Mack Attack to 3-0. UNC is a three-point underdog for Friday’s non-conference game at Wake Forest; I would take them as three-point favorites. Sam Howell continues making the plays that need to be made and one of the best stories of this young season continues.
KEVIN MCGUIRE (@KevinOnCFB): Maryland has been scoring plenty of points to start the season and takes their high-flying, rejuvenated offense on the road this week. They are due for a letdown, and Temple is the team to give them their first tough battle of the year. The Owls get defensive at home in The Linc and the Terrapins go home with their first loss of the season, dropping them out of the top 25 as quickly as they entered. The AAC has a solid week as UCF sends Stanford home with a loss too.
JOHN TAYLOR (@CFTalk): Not only will No. 17 UCF win and cover, but the Group of Five school will hand Stanford its worst loss since Washington waxed them 44-6 in September of 2016.
NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
This week, our pals over at Rotoworld take an in-depth look at matchups in games such as Clemson-Syracuse and Oklahoma USC. For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.
It was good news and decidedly not good news on the medical front for Stanford football Tuesday.
First, the bad.
Walker Little suffered a dislocated knee in the season-opening win over Northwestern and was expected to miss at least a month as he recovered from the injury. Unfortunately for both the offensive lineman and the football program, the Cardinal announced this afternoon that Little will be forced to undergo surgery and, as a result, miss the remainder of the 2019 season.
The development is a significant blow to the Cardinal’s line as the starting left tackle was one of the best in the country, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a sophomore last season.
On the positive front, starting quarterback K.J. Costello will, as expected, be back under center for the Week 3 matchup with UCF. Costello, who started all 13 games for the Cardinal last season after starting seven the year before, had been dealing with an unspecified injury that sidelined him for the loss to USC this past weekend.
With Costello out, redshirt sophomore Davis Mills made his first career start against the Trojans. In that start, Mills went 22-of-36 for 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception.