NCAA Football: UCF Knights vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 17, 2021

by Big Al Staff

Game time: 7:30 p.m. ET; Sept. 17, 2021
Venue: Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
Where to watch: ESPN

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: UCF -8; O/U 70.5; UCF -320, Louisville +250
BetMGM: UCF -7.5; O/U 67.5; UCF -303, Louisville +240
Caesars: UCF -7.5; O/U 67.5

Season record
UCF: 2-0
Louisville: 1-1

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UCF - Louisville preview and analysis


Recent form
UCF: won 63-14 vs. Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 11
Louisville: won 30-3 vs. Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 11

It’s looking like another special type of season for the Central Florida Knights.

There’s plenty of football left to be played, but UCF getting off to a 2-0 start is exactly what the doctor ordered with one more game before AAC play gets underway.

And now the Knights get to wrap up their non-conference slate with another winnable game, though it’s their first road game of the season. UCF will face the Louisville Cardinals, a team that has been underwhelming on the books to start this season.

UCF is off to a 2-0 start for the fifth consecutive season, which bodes well for recent history in the way they’ve handled business in the non-conference slate. The Knights built off that impressive one-score win against Boise State to a resounding, dominant victory against FCS Bethune-Cookman. Not a bad start to the Gus Malzahn era as UCF head coach..

Surprisingly enough for the Knights, while they didn’t cover in Week 1 against the Broncos, it was only decided by a half point. When you consider how Lousiville has looked over the last couple of weeks, you realize it could be much worse.

Louisville is coming off an FCS win of its own, winning 30-3 over Eastern Kentucky at home on Saturday. But more importantly, after an uninspiring performance against Ole Miss last Monday, the Cardinals didn’t cover at -30. Two games in, the Cardinals haven’t done well against the spread.

It’s a completely different style of quarterbacks we’ll see on Friday. Dillon Gabriel has paced the UCF offense with six touchdowns to only two interceptions, while Louisville’s Malik Cunningham has done more damage on the ground (4 TD) as he has through the air (2 TD).

There just seems to be too much of a talent discrepancy, as well as just Louisville not being ready to go the first two weeks. Yes, it’s fair to call a 30-3 win over a team you should dominate as not being prepared. The Cardinals are trying to weave their way through a lackluster ACC that has a steep dropoff after the likes of Clemson and Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, two games in, the biggest competition to No. 8 Cincinnati are these Knights that sit one spot outside the AP Top 25. A convincing win over Louisville, coupled with some losses in the rankings, could see two teams from the AAC in the top-25. That’s not even counting the strong play from SMU and Tulane to start the year, as well.

Prediction


The Knights should win this game, but if they’re going to dominate and cover, they need to force turnovers and utilize that pass rush. UCF doesn’t have a sack through two games and only has two interceptions. UCF’s run defense has been superb, allowing 20 and 24 yards through two games. They have to make Cunningham uncomfortable in the pocket. UCF by 10, with the over.

Betting trends


UCF is 10-15 against the spread in its last 25 games. As a favorite, the Knights are 9-14 ATS.

The over is 6-1 in UCF’s last seven September games.

UCF is 3-3 in games after they score 50 or more the last game.

Louisville is 8-5 against the spread in its last 13. The over is 7-0 after a Louisville home win.

Players to watch


UCF: The Knights’ offense features talent at quarterback, but a deep ground attack led by Isaiah Bowser. The senior running back, who transferred from Northwestern, had 59 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday. His five touchdowns are already one off the career-high he set in 2018. He’ll be featured heavily as the season goes on.

Louisville: UCF needs to avoid throwing to Lousiville DB Kei’Trel Clark, who had two interceptions against Eastern Kentucky to go along with six tackles.

Statistical leaders


UCF:
Passing: Dillon Gabriel -- 630 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Isaiah Bowser -- 231 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Jaylon Robinson -- 187 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Quadric Bullard -- 16 tackles

Louisville:
Passing: Malik Cunningham -- 467 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jalen Mitchell -- 139 yards; Malik Cunningham -- 108 yards, 4 TD
Receiving: Amari Huggins-Bruce -- 167 yards
Defense: Kenderick Duncan -- 16 tackles, 1 sack

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All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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