Our 2016 AutoNation Cure Bowl free pick considers an interesting matchup featuring the University of Central Florida Knights and Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Knights are favored by anywhere from 5.0 to 6.0 points. Both teams offer fairly good defenses, but UCF has a truly dynamic offense and, we think, their D is also a tad better.
The University of Central Florida Knights (6-6 Overall, 4-4 American Athletic Conference) finished third in the East Division of the AAC behind first place Temple and second place South Florida. The Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3 Overall, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference) come to this bowl after having a solid conference season, finishing second to Appalachian State.
University of Central Florida Knights
Before they started conference play, UCF lost to #5 Michigan 51-14 in week two and to un ranked Maryland 30-24 in week three. One major win was against UConn. They beat the Huskies 24-16 for the first time since 2013. That win was followed by a tough 31-24 loss to Houston. It was difficult for the Knights to lose their final two games, 35-20 to Tulsa and 48-31 to USF.
The Knights are scoring 30.1 PPG. Their red zone success rate is 90.91%. They’ve posted 25 rushing touchdowns and nine passing scores. QB McKenzie Milton (57.9 COMP%, 9 TDs, 7 INTs) will need to keep his run-based offense focused and running smoothly. Expect few passes by the Knights. WR Tre’Quan Smith (54 REC, 808 YDs, 15.0 AVG, 5 TDs) will be Milton’s likely target. Look for RBs Jawon Hamilton (129 ATT, 481 YDs, 3.7 AVG, 4 TDs) and Dontravious Wilson (120 ATT, 463 YDs, 3.9 AVG, 8 TDs) to get a lot of carries in this game.
The UCF defense is giving up 24.1 PPG. They’ve snagged 13 receptions, returning four for TDs. They’re solid on the pass rush, scoring 36 sacks and 38 QB hurries. They have also forced 15 fumbles and broken up 62 passes. The D has made 92 TFL. Teams have red zone success against the Knights 70.37% of the time. Look for LB Shaquem Griffin (85 TCKLs, 11 Sacks, 19 TFL) to have a major impact in this game.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
The Red Wolves did not win an out of conference game this season. Toledo beat them 31-10, Auburn 51-14, and Utah State 34-20. They also lost to Central Arkansas 28-23. They then reeled off six straight SBC wins, including beating AP-ranked Troy 35-3, before losing to Louisiana Lafayette 24-19. In their final game, they beat Texas State 36-14.
The Red Wolves have scored 19 TDs when rushing and 18 through passing. They’re averaging 27.0 PPG and have success in the red zone 78.72%. QB Justice Hansen (58.9 COMP%, 16 TDs, 8 INTs) will keep TE Blake Mack (33 REC, 585 YDs, 17.7 AVG, 3 TDs) and WR Kendall Sanders (33 REC, 426 YDs, 12.9 AVG, 4 TDs) in his field of vision. RBs Warren Wand (185 ATT, 867 YDs 4.7 AVG, 7 TDs) and Johnston White (98 ATT, 457 TDs, 4.7 AVG, 5 TDs) will be the primary ball carriers.
Arkansas State is allowing 22.2 PPG and teams are scoring 79.49% of the time they occupy the red zone. Their defense does a good job on the frontline, as they come to this game with 37 sacks and 28 QB hurries. In addition, the secondary has 42 PD and 11 INTs Watch out for Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (11 Sacks, 16 TFL). He could make some major stops in this game.
2016 AutoNation Cure Bowl Free Pick
Our 2016 AutoNation Cure Bowl free pick is going with the Knights in this game. We like both sides of their red zone play, and their defense looks to be a bit better than their opponent’s. Take the UCF Knights at -5.0. By the way, the spread is getting bigger on this game with some books posting UCF at -6.0. It may go to 6.5 or even 7.0!
The AutoNation Cure Bowl will be played on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. Kickoff is 5:30 p.m. with the game being broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.