UCF Knights face tough clincher on Saturday

Latavius Murray races toward the end zone in UCF's rout of SMU Nov. 3.

Latavius Murray races toward the end zone in UCF's rout of SMU Nov. 3.

Isaac Babcock

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Even with Ohio State in their rearview mirror, the Knights (8-2, 6-0) have their biggest mountain ahead of them as they head to Tulsa (8-2, 6-0) this week. With a win, they could clinch the division title and grab home field advantage for the championship in the same moment.

It won’t be easy. The Knights may be facing the most prolific run game they’ve seen all season. The Golden Hurricane has blown through defensive lines with an offense that can spread the ball to five or more running backs with equal effectiveness.

Against Houston on Nov. 10 that translated into 505 yards, 350 of them on the ground, as they pummeled the Cougars in a 41-7 blowout. In that game, six players ran in the double digits.

Fresh off a 31-24 edging of UTEP (2-8, 1-5) last week, the Knights also brought their run game, but it was largely a one-man show. In top form for the last four games, running back Latavius Murray has racked up more than 600 yards in that time. That includes 117 worth of scampers in the last game. His 5.69 yards per carry ranks him No. 1 all time at UCF.

He’ll have to be on his game Saturday, as the Golden Hurricane has the best rushing defense in the conference.

But in UCF’s oddball run game, which racked up 188 yards against UTEP, two quarterbacks backed up Murray, with Blake Bortles and Rob Calabrese adding up 65 yards combined on the ground. Bortles also passed for 214 yards in the game.

It may be special teams that make the game though, with both teams having remarkable long-distance ability. Tulsa is ranked No. 1 in Conference USA in kickoff and punt return yardage. The Knights, when they can hold onto the ball, have proven they can take end zone-to-end zone trips of their own this season.

The game kicks off at noon Saturday, Nov. 17, broadcast on Fox Sports Networks.