[5:30 PM] UCF v. Arkansas State

Who will WIN this matchup?

UCF Knights (6-6)

Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)


The line for this game is Central Florida by 4 points.

Arkansas State and Central Florida both made major turnarounds to arrive at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. for the AutoNation Cure Bowl on Dec. 17. UCF went 0-12 in 2015 but won six of its first 10 games this season under first-year coach Scott Frost before losing to Tulsa and South Florida. Meanwhile, the Red Wolves began the season 0-4, including a 51-14 loss to Auburn, before winning seven of their last eight to gain a share of their fifth Sun Belt Conference title in six years.

The teams are led by their defenses, which both rank in the top 50 in yards allowed per game and are among the top 15 in sacks. The Knights allowed a total of nine points to American Athletic Conference rivals Tulane and Cincinnati in the first two games of November and are led by linebacker Shaquem Griffin (85 tackles, 11 sacks). Arkansas State has allowed an average of 13.7 points over its last seven contests while defensive ends Chris Odom and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones have combined for 24 sacks.

Arkansas State starts a sophomore quarterback in Justice Hansen while UCF is led by freshman signal-caller McKenzie Milton – and each has had his moments. Milton, who played in nine of the last 10 games after taking over for senior Justin Holman, is averaging almost 201 yards through the air with nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Hansen did not open the season as the starter but has thrown for 2,514 yards with 16 TDs and eight interceptions – 10 and two, respectively, in the last six games.

The Knights return to the postseason for the first time since losing to North Carolina State 34-27 in the 2014 St. Petersburg Bowl, dropping to 3-4 in the program’s history that includes a 2013 Fiesta Bowl triumph over Baylor. Milton has thrown for 458 yards in his last two games and has one premier target in sophomore Tre’Quan Smith, who has made 54 receptions for 808 yards along with five touchdowns. UCF is 96th in the nation in rushing (151.9 yards), with freshman Jawon Hamilton (481, four TDs) and senior Dontravious Wilson (463, eight) leading the way.

Hansen has a variety of weapons at his disposal as five receivers have accumulated 300 yards, including tight end Blake Mack (33 catches, 585 yards, three touchdowns) and senior wideout Kendall Sanders (33, 426, four). Running back Warren Wand has recorded 867 yards and seven scores on the ground for the Red Wolves, who are 2-4 in bowl games as they prepare for their sixth in a row. The defense (374.5 yards allowed) has had several contributors, including senior linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster (team-leading 88 tackles).



StreakSmarts Pick: UCF Knights

Confidence: 5/10

StreakSmarter Pick