In OU’s first game since their thrilling upset of Texas two weeks ago, the Sooners will play the UCF Knights at The Palace on the Prairie at 11 AM (CT). Oklahoma is now ranked sixth in the country, after falling one spot during their bye week.
Central Florida has had a tough start to their initial Big 12 season, going 0-3 with close losses to Kansas St. and Baylor, and a blowout loss against Kansas. In the first part of this week’s preview, we’ll explore the matchup between the UCF offense and the OU defense.
Oklahoma vs UCF: What to Watch For When UCF Has the Ball
The Central Florida offense has been putting up points all season and they’re averaging 35 points per game, which ranks fourth in the Big 12. They’ve scored 31 or more points on four occasions, with their highest total of 56 coming against Kent St.
The biggest question for the Knights’ offense will be whether or not their starting quarterback, John Rhys Plumlee, can return to his usual level of play after missing the last month with a leg injury.
In the two games he played in prior to his injury, he threw for 553 yards and three touchdowns, but also had a problem with interceptions, throwing three of them.
Plumlee’s best weapon is 6’1” senior wideout, Kobe Hudson, who is second in the Big 12 with 473 receiving yards. However, he’s been stymied the last two games, only totaling two catches for 10 yards. Javon Baker is the Knights’ other receiving threat, with 417 receiving yards and two touchdowns on the season.
Coach Guz Malzahn has been extremely committed to running the football this year, and the UCF rushing attack is averaging 247 yards per game, tops in the conference. Their backfield is a two-headed monster, led by 5’8” senior RJ Harvey who averages 85.2 yards per game on the ground and is also third on the team in receiving. Not to be outdone, fellow senior Johnny Richardson has 441 rushing yards and one touchdown on the season.
The Oklahoma defense isn’t going to sneak up on teams anymore. This unit has been great, giving up 14 points per game, which ranks seventh nationally. They’ve only allowed eight touchdowns the whole season, and are the reason the Sooners are still undefeated.
Senior linebacker, Danny Stutsman is the soul of this unit and will be an All-American if he stays healthy the rest of the season. He was a bit banged up a few weeks ago, but the time off will hopefully have allowed him to heal fully.
Jaren Kanak has been another standout on this Sooners defense. The sophomore has blossomed in his role as the Robin to Stutsman’s Batman this season. He is second on the team with 35 total tackles and tied for second (with Stutsman) in sacks with two. He was disruptive in the Red River game, and his emergence has helped solidify the OU linebacker corps.
Oklahoma-native, Ethan Downs also had a great game against Texas, sacking Quinn Ewers twice, adding to his season total of 3.5. The Sooners have been average at rushing the quarterback, and if Downs can continue his upward trajectory, that would help out the defensive line tremendously.
OU has struggled more against the pass than the rush this season, and Plumlee and UCF’s talented wide receivers could test them a little bit. Gentry Williams and Woodi Washington have been decent in the secondary, and Williams has already intercepted three passes this season.
The UCF Knights have a potent offense that will put up points and will get contributions from both their run and pass games. The return of John Rhys Plumlee will only help, and the Sooners will be tested if they overlook the Knights. However, Oklahoma has better talent and better coaching and should be fresh after the bye week. With the Sooners flying high after their win over Texas, it would behoove the defense to come out and make a statement against an underrated UCF offense.
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