Football predictions: Stanford vs. UCF

Sept. 11, 2015, 2:31 a.m.

Stanford (0-1, 0-0 Pac-12) vs. UCF (0-1, 0-0 American)

Michael Peterson: Stanford 20, UCF 16

Let me take you back to last week’s predictions, when I declared “Count me as a believer in the Stanford offense this season; the unit has too many weapons not to put points on the board against the Wildcats.” Safe to say, I was very wrong. I still believe the offense has a lot of weapons; however, I’m not as confident with their fit into the scheme as I was last week, and it’s going to take some serious fireworks before I jump back onto the offense’s bandwagon. If UCF had shown a semblance of an ability to score last week against FIU, I might have picked them here. I have a hard time projecting Stanford to beat UCF -– a team with four nine-win seasons in the last five years -– by much, given how poorly the Cardinal offense played last Saturday, even taking into account UCF’s atrocious home loss to FIU. The offense gets just enough done, and UCF’s lack of a running game allows the defense to focus on the passing game and slow down the Knights’ offense.

Do-Hyoung Park: Stanford 13, UCF 9

Mark my words: This game is going to be really, really ugly. I fully believe that Stanford’s offense will pick up the pieces at some point this season, but it won’t be in this game. UCF has one of the most low-key strong defenses in the country, and although the Knights lose their entire starting secondary from last season, they return a strong, experienced defensive front that will likely limit Stanford’s success on the ground and pressure Hogan and the offensive line into making mistakes. Luckily for the Cardinal, UCF’s running game is nonexistent (30 rushes for 46 yards against Florida International!!!) and Stanford’s defense should be able to pretty easily shut down UCF’s one-dimensional attack. The difference in this game is a full four quarters of Michael Rector, who will allow Stanford to stretch the field in its passing game.

Winston Shi: Stanford 16, UCF 13

If we’re going to freak out over one game, Stanford’s loss to Northwestern is easily matched by UCF’s loss to Florida International. Besides, 90 percent of college football games come down to talent and Stanford just has more of it.

But I don’t think Stanford’s going to come out with an emphatic victory because of its defensive line, which just lost Harrison Phillips to ACL surgery. Guess what that means. It means that Stanford has a grand total of … four … defensive linemen on the two-deep. Stanford might have recruited gobs of talent but if it can’t stay on the field, well … when Phillips got banged up during the Northwestern game, the Wildcats ran all over the winded Cardinal front. Yes, depth charts don’t always tell the whole story. But four defensive linemen for an entire college football season isn’t just bad. It’s the Human Centipede of depth chart disasters. One more major injury on the defensive line and Stanford will be lucky to win six games this season. I wish I were kidding.

Vihan Lakshman: Stanford 27, UCF 13

I’m going to go against the grain here and say that Stanford reignites the offense against UCF and wins by two touchdowns. The Knights have a lot of talent at key positions, including quarterback, defensive line and receiver, so I could easily see them making life difficult for the Cardinal and even pulling this game out; however, Stanford has consistently shown the ability to bounce back from befuddling road losses with strong home performances (outside of last year’s Utah game), and I expect this team to come out with a sense of urgency and focus that was noticeably lacking in the season opener. Winston’s point about the lack of defensive line depth is very true, but Stanford should be able to overcome any deficiencies up front against a UCF running game that managed just 46 yards against Florida International. The return of Michael Rector and Devon Cajuste to the starting lineup should put the UCF secondary on its heels early and help the Cardinal rebound from a disastrous week one performance.

Andrew Mather: Stanford 31, UCF 21

After seeing what happened when this panel unanimously picked Stanford to win last week, it makes me a little queasy to jump right back on the bandwagon and presume the Cardinal dispatch this UCF team with ease. However, while it’s one thing to lose to a middleweight Power 5 team on the road, it would be quite another level of embarrassment for Stanford to drop just its fourth home game in five years to an opponent that opened its season with a loss to Florida International. Call me stubborn, but my expectations for the Cardinal to cruise to victory in this game are unchanged.

The Stanford offense should be desperate to prove that it does know how to score points after last week’s dismal offensive showing, so I would think this one might open up a little more than we’re used to in the David Shaw era. The team should try a little harder to avoid settling for field goals, and Kevin Hogan’s passing game may look a little more confident since he’ll have the chance to establish some chemistry with his typical targets of Michael Rector and Devon Cajuste right from the get-go. I expect the offensive line to acquit itself better than it did in Evanston as well and don’t think that the group will concede more than one sack against the Knights’ experienced pass rush.

Don’t count on UCF to roll right over –- they’re a well-coached team that knows how to bounce back from difficult losses –- but ultimately there is still no reason that the Cardinal shouldn’t come away from this matchup with a solid win.

The Daily Sports Staff is the collective moniker of an overworked, beleaguered, underpaid collection of sportswriters that feel comfortable enough with their own self-identities to give up any sense of individualism for the good of the sports section. To contact The Daily Sports Staff, send an email to the managing editor(s) of the sports staff (sports 'at' stanforddaily.com), keepers of the souls of those sportswriters.

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