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Penn State, UCF Open The Season Overseas, Searching For Answers To Questions

Posted by Blake Frazier on 8/28/2014 8:59:16 PM

In 2013, the UCF Knights surprised a lot of people all the way to a conference championship and a resounding Fiesta Bowl victory. What will they be able to do for an encore?

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. UCF Knights (In Dublin, Ireland) – Saturday, August 30

Sport betting line: UCF -2

Why Penn State Will Win

When you look at this game on a few different levels, Penn State becomes the better choice as a bettor. First, the Nittany Lions have a returning quarterback in this game. Christian Hackenberg is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the Big Ten and the country at large. He’s a strong pocket passer, not one of the hybrid runner-scrambler-playmaker types that’s become more widespread at the quarterback position. With James Franklin beginning his first season as Penn State’s head coach, there might be a small transitional aspect to this game, but Hackenberg is a veteran who knows what he’s doing, and that should help the Nittany Lions a lot in this game, especially in a foreign country and a generally foreign environment.

UCF doesn’t have a returning quarterback, on the other hand. The Knights are replacing Blake Bortles this season, so it’s very much unknown as to what they’re going to get in this game from their passing attack. What’s even bigger than the loss of Bortles is the loss of running back Storm Johnson, a strong yet very quick runner who was very agile on his feet and could make the first tackler miss in open space. When he approaches contact and can’t escape a tackler, Johnson bounces off the tackle to get two or three yards after the first hit. Not having him alongside Bortles will really deplete UCF’s offensive firepower.

Why UCF Will Win

The thing that UCF can bank on in this game and use as a source of great confidence is the fact that its secondary is intact from last season. Central Florida didn’t have a great defensive line, but whenever an opposing quarterback didn’t have a lot of time to throw, the secondary held up well. With even more experience in that unit this season, the Knights can reasonably expect to provide a test to Hackenberg and the rest of the Penn State passing offense. If UCF can play the kind of game in which it does not get beaten on long passes and forces Penn State to throw the ball short all the time, the Nittany Lions might settle for field goals and, on other drives, eventually commit turnovers. It’s an early game in the season, so it’s natural and logical to think that both teams will be rusty. If UCF gets the better of this specific battle to fight off rust and get into a quick rhythm, it is going to win this game.

Who Will Win?

The secondary of UCF is strong, but the concern for the Knights is their offense. How are they going to move the ball without their two best players, by far, from a season ago? It’s asking too much of UCF to expect it to win this game. Penn State will win.

College Football Betting Pick: Penn State +2

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