The first game on Saturday’s slate will be played across the pond in Ireland. While a volcano in Iceland led to travel concerns and threatened this game due to volcanic ash, it is still scheduled to take place, as it looks like both teams will be able to make it to Europe.
Penn State begins the James Franklin era after Bill O’Brien left for the NFL after two seasons in Happy Valley. Meanwhile, UCF finished 12-1 last season — including a win over Penn State at Beaver Stadium — and won the Fiesta Bowl. Quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson were the Golden Knights’ stars last season and are now in the NFL, but the team is still loaded.
Date: Saturday, August 30, 2014
Time: 8:30 AM EST
TV Channel: ESPN2
Location: Croke Park (Dublin, Ireland)
Betting Line: UCF -2 via 5Dimes
Prediction: Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is one the best in the Big Ten, and is expected to make a major stride after a solid freshman campaign. The Nittany Lions return their three leading rushers, but have inexperienced receivers that were mostly recruited by O’Brien. The offensive line is also young, and Penn State lacks quality depth on both sides of the ball due to sanctions and loss of scholarships.
UCF lost their two offensive stars, but George O’Leary’s team still has a lot of talent. Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo had an impressive camp and will take over for Bortles. Most importantly, the Golden Knights return nine starters on their defense, and should be able to slow down Hackenberg. UCF’s defensive line will give the Penn State offensive line trouble all afternoon.
Penn State was a small favorite when this game opened, now UCF is the favorite, and it makes sense. Penn State has a new coach and it should take time for the Nittany Lions to get used to Franklin’s system. For thatUCF is the better team and we will take them to win and cover the short point spread.