First place in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference is on the line on Thursday night as No. 12 UCF returns to action against a hot Temple team that is also 4-0 in conference play and coming into the game off a bye week. The Knights’ pursuit of a historic playoff bid has been a talking point on the outside with the College Football Playoff Selection Committee unveiling its first set of rankings, but for any of that to be relevant UCF has to take care of business here in one of the tougher games left on its schedule.
The Thursday night national television stage will give UCF a chance to make its case to a large audience for inclusion in the College Football Playoff. The selection committee officially doesn’t incentivize margin of victory and claims to watch every single game, but it’s only human for these big-stage games and moments to last a little longer in the college football consciousness.
Date: Thursday, Nov. 1 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Spectrum Stadium — Orlando, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
Temple: Last time out, Temple rallied back to force overtime and beat Cincinnati, handing the Bearcats their first loss of the season. After starting the season 0-2, the Owls have won five of their last six with the only loss coming to Boston College (45-35 in Chestnut Hill). Geoff Collins guided Temple to a bowl win in his first year taking over for Matt Rhule, and this year’s team has taken another step forward into conference title contention. Temple will have a chance to prove it belongs in the top tier of the AAC here in the next three weeks with games against UCF, Houston and USF.
UCF: The big point of concern for UCF is the status of star quarterback McKenzie Milton. Coach Josh Huepel has continued to call Milton’s status a “game-time decision” as he works his way back from an undisclosed injury that kept him out of UCF’s 37-10 win at ECU on Oct. 20. The first-string quarterback for now is redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr., who just got his first career start in the win against the Pirates. Milton not playing in that game came as a surprise to all, and now all we know is that Huepel is “hoping he gets back.” Milton ranks No. 6 in the nation in points responsible for per game and currently has a streak of 20 straight games played with a passing touchdown. The UCF offense can be productive and explosive with Mack at the helm, but can it be elite without its Heisman Trophy contending star quarterback?
Game prediction, picks
It’s crazy to me that the oddsmakers are willing to lay more than 10 points with Milton’s status in jeopardy. Temple is a good football team, and it could even win this game outright. Double-digit underdogs on weeknight games are always enticing, especially when you might be going up against the backup quarterback. Pick: Temple +10.5
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