UCF at Tulsa Game Preview

Michael Greco (Getty Images)

A quick look at the matchup of Central Florida visiting Tulsa on Sunday

UCF Knights vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Sunday, October 26th, 2008 8pm EST
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Records:
UCF 2-4, Tulsa 7-0

Last week: UCF was off following a tough 20-14 loss at Miami; Tulsa ran it up on UTEP, 77-35.

Tulsa offense- 1st overall (624.7 ypg., 5th passing- 357.7 ypg., 7th rushing- 267.0 ypg.) 1st scoring- 56.6 ppg. vs. UCF defense- 50th overall (338.3 ypg., 86th passing- 230.0 ypg., 27th rushing- 108.3 ypg.) 74th scoring- 26.7 ppg.

The Knights defense has its work cut out for them this week as they travel to Tulsa and take on the nation's best offense. Most big time offensive stats teams are one-dimensional, but Tulsa is the only team in the nation ranked in the top seven in both passing and rushing offense.

The Golden Hurricane is led by quarterback David Johnson, who leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 212.8 quarterback rating, which is more than 20 points higher than number two quarterback Sam Bradford from Oklahoma. Johnson has completed 69% of his passes for 2397 yards, 31 TD's, and just 8 INT's.

As we mentioned, Tulsa can run the football almost as well as they throw it, and their best running back is Tarrion Adams, who has gained 633 yards on just 107 carries with five rushing touchdowns. A.J. Whitmore has averaged better than 10 yards per carry in limited opportunities, but also has five touchdowns.

David Johnson's top receiving threat is senior wideout Brennan Marion, who leads the team with 28 receptions for 755 yards and seven touchdowns. Freshman Damaris Johnson has 24 receptions for 367 yards and five touchdowns, junior wide receiver Slick Shelley has caught 22 balls for 409 yards and six touchdowns, and sophomore fullback Charles Clay has 17 receptions for 250 yards, and six touchdowns.

Although the Knights secondary is as talented as any in the country, and they have a few players who could play on Sunday's, they will have their hands full trying to slow down this ultra-explosive offense.

Best offensive matchup for Tulsa: Rodrick Thomas vs. David Williams- Thomas should have his way with the undersized Williams, and look for Tulsa to run off right tackle.

Best defensive matchup for UCF: Torrell Troup vs. Jody Whaley- Troup is a load at 6'4", 320 lbs. and is turning into a dominant defensive tackle. Look for Troup to clog the middle against Whaley.

UCF offense- 119th overall (248.3 ypg., 110th passing- 121.7 ypg., 83rd rushing-126.7 ypg.) scoring- T108th- 17.7 ppg. vs. Tulsa defense- 99th overall (410.7 ypg., 110th passing- 274.6 ypg., 59th rushing-136.1 ypg.) 80th scoring- 27.1 ppg.

The Knights offense has obviously struggled mostly due to youth and inexperience at key positions, such as quarterback and running back, as evidenced by their overall ranking being last in the NCAA. UCF may have junior quarterback Michael Greco back this week as he is battling a knee injury. Greco gives an added dimension of speed to the offense at quarterback, although he has been mediocre as a passer in his first season of starting.

UCF will try to control the clock by running the football and making first downs in this game, which is certainly easier said than done from a struggling offense. Freshman running back Ronnie Weaver will have to have a good game, as he is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry.

Tulsa plays a very aggressive 3-3-5 defense, in which they are prepared for teams who mostly throw the ball which the C-USA is full of. The 3-3-5 also allows them to rush the passer from different spots and confuse young or inexperienced quarterbacks.

Tulsa's leading tackler is junior middle linebacker Mike Bryan. Bryan is a playmaker who has recorded 51 tackles, 4 TFL, and has recovered a fumble. Senior defensive end Moton Hopkins has 40 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. Junior James Lockett leads the team with 3.5 sacks to go along with 38 tackles, 7 TFL, and 3 forced fumbles.

The Golden Hurricane have some youth in the secondary, and teams have been able to take advantage of that as evidenced by their 100th ranked pass defense. Cornerback John Flanders is a freshman, and Kenny D. Sims is a junior.

Best offensive matchup for UCF: Patrick Brown vs. Un'Tavious Scott- Brown is clearly the Knights best offensive player and is one of the better left tackles in the nation. He should be able to handle the undersized Scott.

Best defensive matchup for Tulsa: James Lockett vs. UCF QB's- Lockett is a big play guy that will line up anywhere and either rush or defend. UCF's quarterbacks are young and inexperienced, and can be tricked from time to time.

Special teams

The UCF special teams units can be special at times, and awful at others. Return man Joe Burnett is among the nation's best, as he ranks 11th nationally in punt returns (15.3 ypr.) and 3rd in kickoff returns (32.5 ypr.) with two touchdowns. The Knights coverage units are average, but their kicking game has been very inconsistent this year, and really can't be counted on as coach O'Leary switches between senior Daren Daly and freshman Nick Cattoi from week to week based on practice results. Sophomore punter Blake Clingan has been solid, averaging 40.1 yards per punt.

Tulsa senior kicker Jarod Tracy has been good, hitting on five of six field goal attempts with a long of just 34 yards. The Golden Hurricane has turned to freshman Kevin Fitzpatrick on longer kicks, and he's one for two with a long of 41 yards. Sophomore punter Michael Such is averaging 47.8 yards per punt, which would ranks him as the top punter in the nation, although the Tulsa offense is so efficient he doesn't have enough punts to qualify. Sophomore punt returner Trae Johnson averages 8.7 ypr., and freshman kickoff returner Damaris Johnson is ranked 20th in the nation with a 27.3 ypr. average.

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