Central Florida looks to get its offense in high gear when it opens American Athletic Conference play at Houston on Thursday. The Knights, who rank 117th out of 125 FBS teams in yards per contest, have struggled on the ground while introducing a first-year starter at quarterback. Central Florida must find a way into the end zone against Houston, which is averaging 31.5 points with a rushing attack that produces more than five yards per carry and put up 399 against UNLV last time out.
The Cougars are well-balanced, with two running backs totaling at least 196 yards and a pair of receivers with more than 220 yards in the first four contests. Central Florida quarterback Justin Holman has completed 60.7 percent of his passes with a talented group of receivers, but the Knights are averaging 2.6 yards per carry. Central Florida has won four consecutive conference openers and owns three straight victories over Houston, including a 19-14 thriller in 2013.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Central Florida –3
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (1-2): Holman threw for more than 200 yards in the first two games, coming off the bench in the opener against Penn State, and went 6-of-11 for 145 in the 41-7 victory over Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 20. Breshad Perriman (eight catches, 206 yards) and J.J. Worton (nine, 150) are two of five major threats through the air. William Stanback gained 137 yards on the ground the last two weeks, and the Knights are 20th in the nation in rushing defense, averaging 102.3 yards allowed.
ABOUT HOUSTON (2-2): Kenneth Farrow (271 yards) and Ryan Jackson (196) lead the rushing attack for the Cougars, who have run the ball 128 times and thrown it 158. Sophomore John O’Korn needs 37 yards to become the 11th Houston quarterback to record 4,000 in his career, but he is completing only 52.7 percent of his passes this season with six interceptions to go along with six touchdowns. O’Korn’s top two targets are Deontay Greenberry (18 receptions, 297 yards) and Daniel Spencer (21, 223).
1. Houston's next victory will be the 400th in the program’s history, as it stands at 399-347-15.
2. Worton is four receiving yards shy of 2,000 in his career and fellow Knights WR Josh Reese is 84 away from becoming the fifth player on the roster with 1,000.
3. The Cougars have forced at least one turnover in 27 consecutive games, the second-longest current streak behind Louisiana-Monroe (30).
PREDICTION: Houston 38, Central Florida 34