UCF's Secret Weapon In Beating Cincinnati And Weekend Notes

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Auburn v Central Florida

Unbeaten Cincinnati, ranked 7th, comes to the Bounce House Saturday to face UCF. For the Bearcats, a win moves them closer to an unbeaten regular season and the AAC title game and just maybe a berth in the College Football Playoff. For UCF, a win means the Knights are likely back inside the national polls. They would also keep their chances of getting to the conference championship alive and gain momentum for a strong finish in 2020 and increase fan excitement for 2021.

Cincinnati is led by junior quarterback Desmond Ridder. In his freshman season in 2018, Ridder struggled when he faced UCF in front of a sold out crowd and national television audience. Now, he is a run and pass threat that limits mistakes and leads a solid offense. But Luke Fickell's team boasts one of the nation's best and toughest defenses. In last year's game at Cincinnati, the Bearcats introduced a 3-3-5 defense for the first time. It worked and flustered, then freshman quarterback, Dillon Gabriel. The Knights moved the ball but struggled in the red zone scoring one touchdown on six tries inside the 20. Cincinnati has two NFL prospects at defensive end and two of the best cover corners. That matchup against UCF wide receivers Marlon Williams, Jaylon Robinson, Jacob Harris and Ryan O'Keefe is worth the attention. Whoever wins this battle, may determine who wins the game.

But UCF's defense will also need to play its best game. The Knights have allowed 34 total points in their last two wins over Houston and Temple. But Cincinnati is playing at a much higher level and averaging almost 42 points a game. Desmond Ridder has hurt opposing defenses with his ability to run by design or roll out and then break free, as he did for a 91-yard TD run earlier in the season. He's averaging 8.8 yards per run and has rushed for nine touchdowns. He also can roll out and throw on the run and create plays with his feet.

Does that sound like anyone UCF knows well? Ever hear of McKenzie Milton?

Milton has been playing scout team quarterback for UCF for weeks. Wearing a red jersey, meaning no one can make contact with him, Milton is giving the UCF defense many looks that they will see on Saturday. Milton marveled college football with his playmaking ability before his injury. These days Milton is rolling out and throwing. He's throwing it deep downfield and he's breaking down would-be tacklers and taking off. No, it's not the same as a game where defensive players get to hit and tackle for real but it's safe to say no team in the country has a scout team quarterback with the same resume.

Milton continues his rehab journey and everyone is rooting for a return someday. ESPN's Tom Rinaldi has a sit down(via Zoom) that will appear on Game Day Saturday and Milton will update all on where he is at when it comes to his health and hope to play again. 

But if UCF prevails in its biggest game of the year and should its defense shine, a game ball might be headed to the guy who might be doing more than anyone thinks in getting UCF ready for the showdown...

Notes: FSU is a 35.5 point underdog to Clemson. Trevor Lawrence is back. The Noles' have one banged up quarterback to start and a freshman backup. Doesn't 35.5 seem low?...Utah opens their season hosting USC Saturday. Again, Utah opens their season on November 21st...The Miami Dolphins started 2019 0-7. Since then, Brian Flores' team has gone 11-7. Their future QB is 3-0 as a starter and if Miami wins at Denver Sunday they will be tied for first place in the AFC East...Maybe Jameis Winston picked correctly when he chose to sign with the Saints. Many thought he made a mistake agreeing to back up Drew Brees but now Winston likely has at least three weeks to start and some think he will flourish with Sean Payton's plan and the Saints may be better going down the field. The next month just might give Winston another chance to become a week-to-week starter and cash in after throwing 30 picks last season...Cole Anthony may become a star for the Orlando Magic. He might become a bust. I have no idea nor does anyone else. But the Magic must get him minutes early. Evan Fournier opted in to keep his $17 million and is available today and everyday in a trade. He will not get another contract from the Magic and that's why Anthony needs more minutes at the start. The Magic can take two years to know what they have. They need to know sooner than later if they guessed right in picking the one-time projected top pick who fell to 15...Orlando City plays its first ever MLS playoff game Saturday at Exploria Stadium against NYCFC. The Lions are a great story that's not getting the attention it likely deserves because the pandemic changed so much of their season. But they have a real chance to win the MLS Cup. It's a tricky matchup against a team who finished the regular season strong. Orlando City is the better side. A win Saturday sends the Lions to Philadelphia, a team they played to a 1-1 draw back in July...

Final thought: Newborns cry without tears

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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