UCF Looking To Keep Rolling As SMU Visits the Bounce House in Primetime

Written by Michael Hull

Orlando, FL – No. 12 UCF looks to continue its red-hot start to the season on Saturday in Orlando, where they will take on the SMU Mustangs. The self-proclaimed “National Champions” have looked every bit the part of a playoff team so far this season, outscoring opponents 195-67 in four games. On the other side, SMU comes into this game on a two-game winning streak, but are sitting under .500 at 2-3 this season. The Mustangs come into this matchup as 24-point underdogs, with the over-under being 75. There are a couple critical things to watch for in this AAC game for each team.

For the Knights, it is all about Mckenzie Milton. Milton has been nothing short of fantastic so far this season, throwing for over 1,200 yards, 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions in four games. The junior has continued to build off the success of last season, but this year’s Mackenzie Milton looks like a different beast. He has been using his legs more than in years past, proving he is a true dual-threat quarterback with five rushing touchdowns already. Plus, despite losing his top target in Tre’Quan Smith to the NFL last offseason, he is on pace to throw for 43 touchdowns, six more than last season’s total. Of course, Milton can’t do it alone, and his supporting cast has not let him down. Lead rusher Adrian Killins is averaging over five yards a carry, and leading receiver Gabriel Davis has 322 yards.

The one knock against UCF in the past has been their defense. After not holding up their end a season ago it appears that the Knights defense has turned a new leaf. They have forced 10 turnovers and allowed just 160 passing yards a game. Richie Grant is the statistical leader in both tackles(33) and interceptions (3) and should have a chance to pile more into the stat sheet this week against SMU. If the UCF defense can continue to play at or near the level of their offense, then this game could get out of hand fairly quickly.

As far as SMU is concerned, the light shines brightest on wide receiver James Proche. With the departure of both Courtland Sutton(Broncos) and Trey Quinn(Redskins) to the NFL, the redshirt junior has had to step into a larger role in the Mustang passing attack. He has done so flawlessly, accumulating 426 receiving yards in five games this season, along with four touchdowns. Coming into SMU, Proche had a 29-inch vertical jump, and used this athletic ability to bud into a star in Dallas so far this season. He gets a tough test this week against UCF as previously mentioned, but Proche has the talent to be able to break the game wide open and possibly lead the Mustangs to an upset.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays itself out. Both junior Ben Hicks and freshman Will Brown have taken meaningful snaps so far this season, as Hicks started the season, but Brown took over in the second half of SMU’s loss to Michigan. The last couple of weeks Brown has led as the starting quarterback, but Hicks has also played. Hicks is more of the prototypical big armed quarterback, while Brown adds another dimension with his legs, rushing for 86 yards so far this season. While Brown may have the current hold on the job, it is obvious that he is on a tight leash and that Hicks, who attempted 12 passes as opposed to Brown’s 20 a week ago, is itching at a chance to win back the trust of his coach. If Brown struggles early, do not be surprised if Hicks comes in as relief.

The American Athletic Conference match-up kicks off from Spectrum Stadium at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6.

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