Game Preview: UCF vs. UAB

The University of Central Florida Knights (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) arrive in Birmingham after losing their first conference game of the year 38-17 at SMU. Freshman wideouts J.J. Worton and Josh Reese pulled down their first collegiate touchdowns in a losing effort, while young linebacker Leilon Willingham snagged an interception on defense.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers (0-6, 0-3 C-USA) host the Knights after losing to Tulsa on the road, 37-20. Blazer quarterback Bryan Ellis threw two touchdowns to freshman wideout JaMarcus Nelson. However, the Blazer defense allowed Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne to rack up 394 yards and three touchdowns of total offense.
More about UAB
Series Record: UCF leads the series 7-1, winning last year's contest 42-7 in Orlando, a Wednesday night game televised by ESPN, which was the most lopsided victory for either team in the series.
Head Coach: Neil Callaway (15-39) is in his fifth year as the head coach of the Blazers. His last stop was as the offensive coordinator of the Georgia Bulldogs from 2001 to 2007. During that time, the Bulldogs won their division three times and won the conference twice. Previously, he was the offensive coordinatorat Alabama (1997-2000), Houston (1993-1997) and was the offensive line coach at Auburn (1981-1992). Callaway graduated from the University of Alabama in 1977, after playing multiple positions (both sides of the line and linebacker).
Team Star: Bryan Ellis, a QB that did not get as much praise or national attention going into the 2011 season as fellow C-USA QBs Case Keenum, Dominique Davis, or Austin Davis, but his stats are good considering the scarcity of victories in Birmingham (3-10 as a starter since 2010, but throwing for 25 touchdowns). The 6-foot-2 native of Fort Valley, Ga. is a pocket passer, with adequate mobility in the pocket. Ellis is comparable to Kyle Israel, but with a stronger arm.
Offensive Style: Multiple Set.
Defensive Style: 4-3.
Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Jeff Godfrey, 96-141, 68.1% Comp, 1118 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: RB Brynn Harvey, 82 attempts, 392 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: WR A.J. Guyton, 19 receptions, 292 yards, 1 TD
Tackles: FS Kemal Ishmael, 30 tackles, 1 TFL
Sacks: (tied) WLB Jonathan Davis, MLB Josh Linam, 2 sacks
Interceptions: (tied) CB Josh Robinson, MLB Josh Linam, CB AJ Bouye
Passing: QB Bryan Ellis, 67-127, 52.8% Comp, 743 yards 2 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: RB Pat Shed, 60 att, 223 yards, 3.7 avg/rush, 1TD
Receiving: WR Jacki Williams, 33 receptions, 321 yards, 9.7 avg/rec , 1 TD
Tackles: S Jamie Bender, 60 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles
Sacks: (tied) LB GregIrving, CB C. Richards, CB Terrell Springs, LB D.A Autry, DL Mickey Jackson, 1 sack
Key Statistics
-UAB's yards per pass attemptdifferential: -3.0
-UCF's YPPAD: + 3.2
-UCF's pass/run ratio 40/60
-UAB's pass/run ratio 57/43
-UAB is allowing 46 percent of opponent 3rd downs to be converted. UCF is only allowing 25 percent.
-UAB is 6-13 in the last 19 C-USA home games.
UAB is one of the worst defenses in the nation, ranked 118th in total defense, 102nd in scoring defense, and 111th in passing defense. They are also allowing the opponent 32:32 a game in possession time. This is an ideal defense to play against for the Knights to get their offense back on track.
After two years of excellence, the UCF kick return units have faltered. The Knights are 100th in kick returns, and 119th in punt returns. At this point last year, UCF was 8th and 5th respectively, and in 2009 was 10th and 37th.
Key Matchup
UCF pass rush vs. Bryan Ellis. With UAB's biggest weapon out for Thursday's game, the pressure will be on Ellis to create plays in the air. This is could be a bad match up considering how much Darius Nall, Troy Davis and friends beat up on Ellis last year in Orlando. Ellis was only sacked once, but was hurried 9+ times. If UAB plans to use more 3-step passes and screens, the speedy freshman wideout JaMarcus Nelson could be the new wrinkle.
What to Look For
Young Wideouts Against Tall Secondary. The Blazer secondary features three players that are over 6+ feet tall, a rarity in non-AQ schools. This secondary has played well, but the lack of a consistent pass rush leaves them vulnerable. Reese and Worton stepped up a bit last week, and Thursday could be another progression against similar sized athletes. Blazer defensive coordinator (and former Memphis head coach) Tommy West is known for his love of blitzing linebackers with zone defense.
What's on the Line
UCF: Getting the team back on track for conference play. Each of the years that UCF has won C-USA, the Knights have lost only one conference game. Every team in the east has at least one loss so far.
UAB: Getting the first conference win for the year for a coach who is on the hot seat.
The Line
UCF is favored by 16.0.