Pictured: B.J. Taylor
Source: Jared Wickerham / Getty Image North America

Preview: Houston at Central Florida

It didn’t take long for Central Florida to get rid of the bad taste in its mouth from a 20-point loss to Memphis as the Knights went out and beat Connecticut 73-67 last Thursday for their 11th victory at home. But now the going gets tougher for the Knights as they welcome 12th-ranked Houston to Orlando on Thursday for a battle between two of the top three teams in the American Athletic Conference.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

“Our whole thing after the Memphis game was to get right,” UCF senior guard B.J. Taylor told reporters after the UConn victory. “We knew we had to come back and get back to being who we were and get back to winning.” The Knights came out on fire against the Huskies, surging out to a 15-point lead in the first half but they had to hang on for the win as their usually tough defense loosened up after the break, letting UConn hit 53 percent of its shots in the second half, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range. The Cougars, likewise, rely on their defense and it has carried them to six straight victories, including a 73-66 triumph over Temple Thursday night that avenged the team’s only loss of the season (73-69 to the Owls on Jan. 9) during which each opponent was held to 70 points or less during that streak. “We win with defense,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters. “The thing we hang our hat on — and good teams have something they can hang their hat on — is the way we defend and rebound.”

TV:
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

ABOUT HOUSTON (21-1, 8-1 AAC): Junior guard Armoni Brooks entered the last outing as the Cougars’ leading scorer at 14.8 points per contest but he had an off night against Temple due to foul trouble and was held to a season-low three points, dropping him to second (14.3) on the team in scoring to senior guard Corey Davis Jr. (15.0), who had 24 points against the Owls. Brooks paces the team in rebounds (6.1) while senior point guard Galen Robinson Jr. sits second in the conference with 5.3 assists per game. The Cougars rank sixth in the nation in scoring defense (60.5) and they limited Temple to 34.3 percent shooting from the field to push them up to second nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.3).

ABOUT UCF (16-4, 6-2): The Knights have matched the 2003-04 squad for the program’s best 20-game start in the Division I era, and a victory over the Cougars would give them their best nine-game record in AAC play. UCF ranks second in the conference to Houston in field goal percentage defense (39.3) and third behind Houston and Cincinnati in scoring defense (63.9), but it’s a much-improved and efficient offense — the AAC’s best (46.8 percent) — that is the difference in the team this season. Taylor (16.9 ppg) came up big in carrying the Knights past UConn with his first 20-point game (21) since he totaled 24 in the AAC opener against Temple, but guard Aubrey Dawkins, the team’s second-leading scorer(15.1), was held below 10 points for the second straight game after he scored in double digits the first 18.

TIP-INS

1. Houston owns a 14-10 series lead and has won three straight and five of the last six meetings, including an 84-56 victory in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament a year ago.

2. The Knights are just 5-44 against ranked teams, but two of those victories (Alabama, Cincinnati) came in the last two seasons under head coach Johnny Dawkins.

3. The Knights have won 31 home games in a row, the nation’s longest active streak.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Memphis at Central Florida

Seventh-ranked Central Florida attempts to finish the job after an emotional week and earn a second straight American Athletic Conference title when it hosts surging Memphis in the championship game Saturday. The Knights extended their national-best winning streak to 24 games with a resounding 38-10 victory at South Florida last Friday, but the triumph came at a cost as star quarterback McKenzie Milton was lost to a severe right knee injury.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

“Everyone in our program has great love and respect for McKenzie and our thoughts and prayers are constantly with him,” UCF coach Josh Heupel told reporters regarding the junior from Hawaii, who was responsible for 34 touchdowns this year. “At the same time, we’re gonna go out and play our hearts out. He’ll be part of who and what we’re doing on the field.” UCF, which is eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings, will hand out 40,000 leis to fans at the game to honor Milton, while freshman quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. gets the job of trying to lead the Knights to another title. Memphis comes to Orlando, Fla. with one of the nation’s best running backs in junior Darrell Henderson, a four-game winning streak and the confidence of two near misses against UCF during the Knights’ winning streak – but a 1-12 all-time record against the Knights. “We’ve competed extremely well against them, but at the same point, we always had mistakes late in games that have cost us,” Tigers coach Mike Norvell, whose team lost in double-overtime at last year’s title game and 31-30 against UCF on Oct. 13, told reporters. “They’ve made plays late in games that have helped them to victory.”

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: UCF -3

ABOUT MEMPHIS (8-4, 5-3 American): Henderson is second in the nation in rushing yards (1,699), tied for second in TDs on the ground (19) and second in yards per carry (8.6) after gaining 178 and scoring twice in the 52-31 win over Houston last week. Junior quarterback Brady White is 53 passing yards from reaching 3,000 on the season, but has thrown four interceptions (seven overall) and three TD strikes (25 overall) in the last two games. Sophomore wide receiver Damonte Coxie is White’s top target with 63 catches for 1,062 yards and seven scores while junior Tony Pollard had career highs of eight receptions and 116 yards last week and is one of the top kick returners in the nation.

ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (11-0, 8-0): The Knights will lean more toward the ground attack with the 6-3, 230-pound Mack at the helm as he has run for 281 yards (7.0 per carry) and completed just 48.8 percent of his passes in a limited role. UCF’s rushing attack has gotten better each game and sophomore Greg McCrae (895 yards, eight TDs on the ground) took the leading role at the end of October while junior Adrian Killins Jr. (1,023 yards rushing and receiving) is always a threat. The Knights’ defense, led by sophomore defensive back Richie Grant (team highs of 98 tackles, five interceptions) and senior lineman Titus Davis (six sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss), must step up again versus the talented Tigers.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Memphis junior RB Patrick Taylor Jr. needs 106 yards rushing to give the Tigers two players with 1,000 in a season.

2. UCF sophomore WR Gabriel Davis leads a balanced receiving corps with 44 catches for 655 yards and six TDs.

3. Tigers LB Bryce Huff is tied for 14th in the nation is tackles for loss per game (1.5) with 18 overall.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

NCAA Fantasy Football Preview

The American Athletic Conference

The time has come for college football. With a little less than two month before kickoff in Sidney, FanPicks previews the NCAA 2016 campaign. First off is the American Athletic Conference holding twelve programs on their list. The Houston Cougars came out on top, winning fourteen out of their fifteen 2015 games including the Peach bowl. They’ve stunned Florida State, who came in as the heavy favorite, to win by a score of 38-24 and take home silver football.

The American Athletic Conference last claimed the national championship in 1982, when the SMU Mustangs won it for two consecutive years. The Cincinnati Bearcats barely missed a participation to the BCS championship after recording a 12-0 season in 2009. The American Athletic Conference may not be has strong of a conference as the Big 12 or SEC, but has what it takes to make some noise as one of the five power conferences in the BCS.

Click here to play NCAA DFS football.

Cincinnati Bearcats Cincinnati logo

One team that may be pretty surprising going into the 2016 season is the Cincinnati Bearcats as they could make some noise in the AAC. They have a good problem right now as any one of their three quarterbacks (Hayden Moore, Ross Trail and Gunner Kiel) could win the starting job.

Connecticut Huskies Connecticut logo

Running back Arkeel Newsome led the AAC with 1,686 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, including two 100-yard rushing performances in the Huskies’ final five games.

East Carolina Pirates East Carolina logo

One of the top returning receivers in the nation, Isaiah Jones hauled in 98 passes for 1,099 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Houston Cougars Houston logo

The Cougars are coming off a breakthrough 13-1 season and Peach Bowl upset of Florida State. Dynamic dual-threat QB Greg Ward Jr. (2,828 yards and 17 TDs) should continue to develop under guru Tom Herman. He’ll have help from RB Duke Catalon and WRs Chance Allen and Isaiah Johnson.

Memphis Tigers Memphis logo

Doroland Dorceus was Memphis’ top all-around back last season, rushing for 661 yards and eight TDs while adding 217 receiving yards and three TD catches.

Navy MidshipmenNavy logo

The Navy Midshipmen had one of their best seasons in program history last year, going 11-2 and winning the Military Bowl. It was a relief for Navy’s fan to see coach Ken Niumatalolo decide to stay rather then take the offer to coach BYU this winter. Senior QB Tago Smith will have to follow in the footsteps of four-year starter Keenan Reynolds.

SMU Mustangs SMU logo

The 6-foot-4 sophomore, Courtland Sutton, is ranked fifth nationally among freshmen receivers with 862 yards and tied for the conference lead with nine TD receptions.

South Florida Bulls South Florida logo

Tailback Marlon Mack ran for a school-record 1,381 yards last year and led the conference in rushing, averaging 6.6 yards a carry with 13 runs of more than 20 yards.

Temple Owls Temple logo

QB P.J. Walker, a senior with 33 starts, holds school records for TD passes (52) and total offense (8,237 yards), and with 7,374 passing yards, he’s 121 short of the school record.

Tulane Green Wave Tulane

Former Tulane starting QB Tanner Lee has transfered to Nebraska. This means, Sherman Badie and Dontrell Hilliard, whom have both rushed for more than 600 yards in a season, should see more carries in an offense designed to run the football with multiple backs.

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Tulsa logo

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior, Dane Evans threw 25 TDs and completed 63 percent of his passes with just eight picks. He threw for 427 yards and four TDs with no interceptions at Oklahoma.

UCF Knights UCF logo

New University of Central Florida head coach Scott Frost introduced new uniform for the team, in hopes that they can shine from the few bright spots that they’ve offered last year. Wide receiver Tre’quan Smith led the Knights in receptions (52), receiving yards (724) and receiving TDs (four) and was one of the team’s few bright spots.

Posted in CFB