After a rough week against Texas, a team departing the Big 12, Kansas will take on a new member of the Big 12 today in the Central Florida Knights. UCF has had a rough introduction to the conference, losing two shootouts. Kansas State beat them 44-31 in Manhattan, and last week a second half collapse ended in a 36-35 comeback win by Baylor in Orlando. In the latter, the Knights took a 35-7 lead with 8:08 remaining in the 3rd quarter, only to watch Baylor score 29 straight in the final 19 minutes.
Despite their rough introduction to Big 12 play, UCF still looks like a pretty strong team this year. SP+ has them ranked 30th in FBS overall with the 24th ranked offense and 44th ranked defense. That would put them on roughly equal footing with KU's offensive performance to date, with much better defensive results. Their productive offense has come without starting QB John Rhys Plumlee, who missed their last three games, but returns today to lead an offense that has been run-heavy so far, racking up 6.1 yards per carry. Even in Plumlee's absence though, UCF has been generally effective through the air. Despite throwing six total interceptions across their first five games, the team has over 1400 passing yards and 10 TDs, with the offense as a whole averaging an explosive 7.7 yards/play.
While the defense has allowed some big point totals the last two weeks, it's been a solid unit as a whole. Senior edge rusher Tre'Mon Morris-Brash has already amassed 12.5 TFLs this year with five sacks. On the other edge Malachi Lawrence has three sacks contributing to a team total of 13. Third is an attacking defense that will look to get into the backfield and disrupt.
The line opened with Kansas as 3.5 favorites, but as word leaked that Jalon Daniels, a surprise last-minute scratch last week, is still battling ban problems and battle-tested senior Jason Bean will get the start once again. As a result, we've seen a 5.5 point swing in UCF's favor. Bean had a very rough week against Texas, but his start was not part of the staff's gameplan, and he and the offensive coaches had to ad lib against one of the top defensive fronts in college football. UCF has a good defense, but they aren't loaded with the same level of size, quickness and physicality that Texas has.
With that said, it's hard to feel especially confident coming off the Texas game, where despite the score remaining close until late in the 3rd quarter, Kansas was largely dominated on both sides of the ball. A whole week with the knowledge that Bean will start gives OC Andy Kotelnicki a chance to draw up a gameplan that will hopefully put the offense in better position to succeed, but there's still the matter of the defense. Through the first three weeks, the Kansas defense seemed to have improved from last year's struggles, but between BYU gashing then repeatedly in the passing game and Texas hanging 660 yards, it's looking more and more like the bend-and-try-not-to-break defense we saw in 2022. I think Central Florida will have a few too many explosive plays for Bean and the offense to keep up.
Central Florida University 42, Kansas 31