UCF Knights vs. Louisville Cardinals – College Football (September 17, 2021)
The ACC has had a disappointing season thus far heading into Week 3. The conference has failed to earn a signature victory.
UCF and Louisville are meeting on a Friday night, and the fireworks should be on display in this one. Their first matchup was in 1985, but they also played in 2013. UCF won that game at Louisville Stadium.
UCF eventually made it to the Fiesta Bowl and finished its season in the AP Top 10. The Knights now have Gus Malzahn as their head coach, and expectations are lofty.
Louisville wants to put last season behind them and pick up momentum before they fall out of reach of earning a bowl bid.
It is now time to discuss the keys to victory for these teams. Here are the latest odds for this ACC-AAC tussle between UCF and Louisville, as well as a prediction and pick.
UCF vs. Louisville Odds
Bettors get an interesting game on Friday night, with UCF entering as nearly a touchdown favorite at the top sites for betting on college football.
Louisville has gone 4-7-1 as home underdogs since 2014, and they struggled at home in spots. Gus Malzahn brings plenty of upside in this matchup.
The Gus Bus is 14-7-1 as a road favorite against the spread, plus there has been a recent success story with UCF. Last season in their opener, UCF scored a touchdown at Georgia Tech and eventually won 49-21.
The Cardinals have their work cut out in this non-conference matchup against the American Athletic Conference. It is time to discuss the keys to victory for both UCF and Louisville.
Why UCF Wins
The Knights have one of the more productive running backs in the country. Isaiah Bowser has five rushing scores through two games, which is second-best in the FBS.
He has been spitting fire with his ability to run downhill and take opposing defenders on a joy ride.
The former Northwestern Wildcat has been a bulldozer in the red zone. He arguably won UCF their opener against Boise State, and controlling the line of scrimmage will be the goal in this one.
The NFL scouting world took notice.
Louisville ranks No. 92 in the FBS in total yards allowed at 402.0 per game. UCF has the offensive weapons to dissect this defense for plenty of scoring drives.
The Knights offense is challenging to prepare for since they can strike quickly with Dillion Gabriel at quarterback. UCF is one of the more explosive offenses in the country, and it could lead the way for all Group of Five programs.
A victory on the road against an ACC squad would put them into the Top 25.
UCF has a bye next week to prepare for conference play, but this could be the team to beat. Cincinnati is getting all the hype due to last season. UCF has the more balanced offensive squad, which favors them in a shootout against Louisville.
Louisville will have issues slowing UCF just like they did against Ole Miss in their season-opening loss.
Why Louisville Wins
Matt Corral should be the top passer the Louisville defense sees all season, so the Cardinals should be ready after being sliced and diced by the Rebels offense. Louisville knows what it feels like to defend a no-huddle high-powered offense.
The defense failed to slow down any drives against Ole Miss, but they will have a better opportunity against UCF. Corral is impossible to defend due to his mobility. Gabriel can move in the pocket, but he is no Matt Corral while scrambling.
Malik Cunningham threw for nearly 300 yards against Eastern Kentucky in their 30-3 win. The Cardinal signal-caller also ran in two scores to put the game out of reach.
Cunningham is an athletic freak at quarterback, and his ability to extend plays will keep the Cardinals in this game. Jalen Mitchell at running back performed well in the victory. He nearly ran for 100 yards and is starting to develop a rapport with Cunningham in the passing game.
There are enough offensive pieces to score on UCF, which will make for a highly entertaining fourth quarter. If they get a little better on defense and turn over the UCF offense once or twice, they will pull off the upset.
UCF vs. Louisville Prediction
The UCF offense has plenty of talent, and life will be challenging for the Louisville defense. The Louisville defense struggled miserably against Ole Miss due to the offensive speed. They never had much of a chance once the second quarter was underway.
Louisville needs improvement from their secondary because they will have issues covering Jaylon Robinson and Brandon Johnson. The tandem is devastating for solid defensive backs, and Louisville lacks talent on the back end.
Gabriel will be threading the needle, and Louisville has not shown much of a pass-rush, either. UCF will be completing a high rate of completions on early downs. Unless Louisville can turn over UCF a few times, they won’t prevent the Knights from scoring at will.
UCF vs. Louisville Pick
The points will be flowing on Friday night, but UCF is going to have the last laugh. Their defense has made fewer mistakes, and the offense has been more consistent thus far in the season.
Guz Malzahn has had a knack for winning close games over the years, and this will be another thrilling victory. They started so slow against Boise State but overcame an 18-point deficit. That was the largest comeback for Gus as a coach.
The Knights will ride that momentum as they are the pick to win this game in a shootout.