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Conference play begins this week for both UCF Knights and Houston Cougars and it should be welcomed with open arms from both teams. UCF already has losses to Penn State and Missouri on its resume and Houston has a loss to BYU. With a combined record of 3-4 in non-conference play, playing against teams with more comparable talent levels should increase the competitive nature of both teams.

UCF vs. Houston College Football Preview

Date/Time: Thursday October 2, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

College Football Betting Odds from WagerWeb

College Football Betting Favorite: Houston -3

Total: 50

UCF is 1-2 straight up and 1-2 against the number entering this game. Central Florida covered in their win over Bethune-Cookman, but lost ATS to both Penn State and Missouri. This will be the third game away from home for the Knights and they are 0-2 SU/ATS in those games, including a season-opening loss in Dublin, Ireland. Head coach George O’Leary is 69-59-1 ATS at Central Florida. Tony Levine is now 17-15 ATS with the Cougars with this season’s 2-2 start. He is 7-5 ATS at home as a favorite.

Central Florida Knights:

Some regression was expected from UCF with the loss of first-round pick Blake Bortles and seventh-round pick Storm Johnson. With Bortles gone, Justin Holman has been given the reins of the offense. He entered the season with just 14 career passing attempts and has looked the part of a true sophomore at various times this season. He’s completed over 60 percent of his passes, but the Knights have just four passing touchdowns. Without the dual threat of Bortles, the Knights aren’t having the same success in the running game. They are averaging 94 yards per game after racking up 160 yards per game on the ground last season. The problems on third down and controlling the clock have also affected the defense. After giving up 277 points all of last season, including 42 against Baylor in the bowl game, the Knights have allowed 71 points in just three games.

Houston Cougars:

The Houston offense looked to be in good hands with John O’Korn now a sophomore, but that has not been the case. The Cougars quarterback has completed only 52.7 percent of his throws with six touchdowns against six interceptions. O’Korn threw 10 interceptions all of last season. Deontay Greenberry, the Cougars top player, is averaging less than 75 receiving yards per game and he still leads the team in receiving yards by more than 70. The Cougars have had more success running the football than throwing it, with 5.1 yards per carry. A +25 turnover margin was extremely helpful to the Cougars last season and the defense hasn’t generated as many big plays, but they have still played well overall. BYU cut them up for well over 500 yards, but opponents have scored just 18.5 points per game, including a shutout of Grambling State.

Free Pick: UCF +3

Perception is low on the Knights because of how they started the season and the big name losses that they have to replace. Ultimately, this is a very talented team that started the season with two power five conference opponents and they are much better than they have shown thus far. The strength of UCF is their defense and the Cougars offense has been very inconsistent so far.

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