I have to admit something straight off the bat: I did not get up early in the morning a couple of weeks ago to watch Central Florida, a team whose coach I keenly dislike, play Penn State, a program I keenly dislike. There's just not much motivation for me there, even on the first full day of college football. And so now I'm looking at the box score from that game in Dublin, Ireland, and I'm utterly confused.
UCF got outgained by 265 yards. Penn State ran 24 more plays and averaged two more yards per play than the Knights. Penn State far outpaced UCF on third-down conversions and scored every time they got to the red zone, compared to an 80 percent clip by Central Florida. And the Nittany Lions had 24 first downs to UCF's 11. As you might guess from those stats, Central Florida lost the football game -- by two points.
Part of that might be because Penn State was forced to settle for four red-zone field goals -- four -- in five trips inside the 20, while the Knights tended to come away with touchdowns when they got there. Part of it could be a bend-but-don't-break defensive strategy. But here's the thing: There's no way that UCF can put up the kind of numbers it put up in the opener and win football games, or even continue to lose by just two.
There are some similarities between UCF and Missouri, of course. Both teams are coming off one of the best years in program history. Both are looking to replace starting quarterbacks that played at least some role in that success. And both were given long odds at repeating in 2014 what they accomplished the season before. Very little of that has changed in the last couple of weeks, though Missouri's first two games included some encouraging signs that they might be the better off of the two teams.
And even in the injury-plagued 2012 season that ended without a bowl berth, Missouri went to Orlando (which I can assure you has absolutely brutal playing conditions) and won by five. The Knights are visiting Columbia this weekend, and unless the luck of the Irish also works in Missouri, there's no reason to think that the Tigers won't win this one as well.
Game Time: Noon ET
TV: SEC Network
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Brandon's prediction: Missouri 34, UCF 21