South Florida Bulls at Central Florida Golden Knights Expert Picks with Odds and Predictions
South Florida Bulls at Central Florida Golden Knights, 3:30 p.m., Friday Nov. 24
No one anywhere in the country predicted that the South Florida-Central Florida rivalry game on Thanksgiving weekend would be one of the most consequential football games played in The Sunshine State this season.
However, Florida State and Florida have gone off the rails this season. And Miami has only played two truly big home games (vs. Virginia Tech and vs. Notre Dame) this season. So with two Top 20 teams and a spot in the conference title game on the line, this USF-UCF game is one of the most important games in this football-rich state this college season.
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No. 19 South Florida (9-1) will take on No. 11 Central Florida (10-0) at 3:30 p.m. on Friday in Orlando. The host Golden Knights are 11-point favorites and the total in this game is set at 63.5.
South Florida at Central Florida Betting Storylines
There could potentially be more on the line than the American Athletic Conference East Division title in this one. Central Florida is just outside of the Top 10, and, as one of only three undefeated teams left in the country, not entirely eliminated from the college football playoffs. Of course, it would take two convincing wins by UCF over the next two weeks paired with all manner of lunacy to make that a reality. But at the very least the Golden Knights could put a lot of pressure on the selection committee by continuing their current domination.
Central Florida has gotten to this point behind Scott Frost's devastating blur offense, which he learned under former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. The Golden Knights are the No. 1 scoring offense in the country at 48.2 points per game and they are boasting an absurd 28-point average margin of victory in their 10 wins.
But South Florida doesn't mind a shootout. The Bulls also play fast with their own spread-option attack and they are No. 16 in scoring with 37.9 points per game. South Florida is No. 13 in total yards and has the No. 8 rushing offense in the nation. Quarterback Quinton Flowers is the reigning offensive player of the year in the AAC. And while his numbers are down from last season, he's still on pace for nearly 4,000 yards of total offense this season.
The knock against both of these teams is that they neither has played anyone. The AAC is a second-tier conference with a lot of weak programs. And the two major conferences wins from USF and UCF came against Illinois and Maryland, respectively. Further, only one of these two foes, Central Florida, faced the AAC's other ranked team (Memphis) this season, beating the Tigers 40-13 back on Sept. 30.
But there is absolutely nothing fluky about either South Florida or Central Florida. USF won 11 games last year, including an overtime win over South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. And it wasn't that long ago (2013) that Central Florida was winning the Fiesta Bowl to cap a 12-victory season that saw them finish in the Top 10.
Central Florida is the major favorite in this game. But South Florida was the team that entered the year as the overwhelming AAC favorite. USF also has the higher-rated defense, with their No. 21 total defense and No. 23 scoring defense edging out UCF's No. 51 and No. 27, respectively, rated group.
South Florida at Central Florida Odds and Betting Trends
Central Florida opened as a 9.5-point favorite and was immediately bet up to 11.0. The action is relatively split, with just under 60 percent of the early wagers coming in on the Golden Knights. The total started at 64.0 and has since moved slightly to 63.5.
South Florida has dominated this series, going 6-2 SU and ATS in their eight meetings dating back to 2005. The favorite has also had little problems in this series, going 3-0 ATS the last three years and 6-2 ATS in those eight games.
UCF has gone a hearty 7-3 ATS in their 10 games this season, including easily covering last week in a blowout win over Temple. However, they are on a 1-3 ATS slide, and the Golden Knights are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games against teams with a winning record.
The Bulls are 5-1 ATS in their last six games against a team with a winning record. But they are just 1-5 ATS in their last six road games and 0-4 ATS in their last four overall. USF has been favored in every game this season, and this is the first time they have been posted as an underdog since their 55-35 loss to Florida State last September.
The 'over' is 10-2 in USF's last 12 games against a team with a winning record, but the 'under' is 4-1 in their last five games overall. Central Florida has gone 'over' in five of their last seven games and the 'over' is 4-1 in UCF's last five home games.
South Florida at Central FloridaPredictions and Picks
I know that South Florida has not played well over the past month while Central Florida has been rolling through people. But this still seems like too many points. I know that Orlando is going to be rocking and Central Florida comes into this one looking like a dominating force. But South Florida shouldn't be rattled. And they have played pretty well away from home over the last three seasons. Add in the fact that South Florida has, statistically, the better defense and the fact that South Florida has dominated this series, and I can see the visiting Bulls hanging around in this one.
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