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Maryland football vs. UCF preview: Terps make their second trip to Florida

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Here’s how the Terps stack up against the Knights.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football team is looking to go 3-0 this Saturday against UCF. The Terps are looking to make it back-to-back wins in Florida after taking it to FIU in a 41-14 victory last week. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

The Knights are coming off a 51-14 loss to Michigan. They’re also coming off an 0-12 season, but 2016 is shaping up to be a much better year for UCF. For starters, the program hired Scott Frost to be its new head coach. Frost spent five years at Oregon before coming to Orlando this offseason. He’s a Chip Kelly disciple, so Frost’s offense goes fast. Facing Maryland Offensive Coordinator Walt Bell’s offense in practice has given the Terps some experience against this kind of pace, but they haven’t seen anything like it in a game since last year’s debacle against Bowling Green.

UCF Knights

Game time: 7 p.m.

TV channel: CBS Sports Network

Stream: nope

Radio: Maryland Sports Radio Network, WMUC Sports Radio, WJZ-FM (105.7) / ESPN 980 (D.C.), Sirius 81, XM 81

2015 record: 0-12

Head coach: Scott Frost

All-time record vs. Maryland: This is the first meeting between the two teams.

F/+ ranking: 88 (Maryland is 53)

Players to watch

Justin Holman, QB, senior, 6’4/225, No. 13. Holman isn’t guaranteed to play, as he exited last week’s game with a leg injury. He’s as much of a threat on the ground as he is through the air. He only completed 50 percent of his passes in UCF’s season opener, then was 3-for-11 before getting injured against Michigan; but he’s the team’s fourth-leading rusher.

[Update: Holmon reportedly won’t be able to go, so true freshman Mckenzie Milton will get the start. He hasn’t played yet, as senior Nick Patti came in for Holman against Michigan.

Jawon Hamilton, RB, freshman, 5’9/190, No. 1. Hamilton leads the Knights in highlight yards per opportunity, but is second to senior Dontravious Wilson in yards per carry. Hamilton has received just slightly more carries, but expect both to see significant action on Saturday.

Mark Rucker, LB, senior, 5’9/217, No. 16. After two games, Rucker leads the Knights in tackles with 12.5. He’s a bit undersized for a linebacker, but he’s speedy.

T.J. Mutcherson, SS, senior, 5’11/195, No. 22. Walt Bell spotlighted him in his weekly press conference, and he had good reason to. Three of Mutcherson’s six tackles have been for losses, and he has one sack. Maryland will probably have to keep him out of its backfield if it wants to get the running game going.

Jamiyus Pittman, DT, junior, 6’0/295, No. 5. Pittman is the guy in the middle of UCF’s defense. He’ll move around a little bit, and as a defensive tackle he won’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but getting him out of the way will be important for Maryland’s ground game.

Strengths

Rushing offense. UCF lost by a healthy margin against Michigan, but it wasn’t all bad. The Knights averaged six yards per carry and had some explosive runs. Maryland’s gonna have to keep a lid on those to win on Saturday.

Rushing defense. The Knights also held the Wolverines to only 2.9 yards per rush, and even though much of this game was already played in garbage time, that still seems pretty impressive. Michigan had 7.8 yards per rush in its season-opening win against Hawaii, for reference.

Weaknesses

Passing offense. Against Michigan, UCF was only 6-of-22 through the air. Michigan’s defense is a black hole, and UCF’s quarterback got injured early, but that’s still a terrifically bad performance.

Explosiveness. UCF is 124th in offensive explosiveness (measured by IsoPPP) and 101st in explosiveness allowed (also measured by IsoPPP). Those are pretty not good.

Predictions

S&P+: 30.8-20.8, Maryland has 72 percent probability of winning.

My prediction: 33-21. Yep.