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Surging Knights trek north to challenge hapless Owls

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Pitting the best against the worst that the newly-created American Athletic Conference has to offer, the 15th-ranked UCF Knights travel to Philadelphia this weekend to do battle with the suffering Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Knights are the cream of the crop in the AAC, sporting a record of 4-0, the only team that has yet to lose a league outing. Since bowing to South Carolina by a mere three points at home back in late September, UCF has gone undefeated, albeit in just four games.

The Knights last took the field on Nov. 9 versus Houston and nearly landed in the loss column again before pulling out a 19-14 victory in Orlando.

"I've been around football a long time and it doesn't get any closer than that," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "We made the play on defense. The coverage was good. I thought the kids hung in there and did what they had to do at the end to win the game."

While the Knights continue to bask in the glow of being the top team in the conference, the Owls are at the other end of the spectrum right now with just a single win in nine opportunities. Temple kicked off the 2013 campaign with six straight defeats before topping Army at home last month, 33-14. But since then the team has bowed twice, first to SMU (59-49) and then Rutgers (23-20) on Nov. 2 in a game that could have easily gone in favor of the Owls.

Even though these two teams compete in the same conference, this is in fact their first-ever meeting.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Knights began showing signs of life against Houston, although Shawn Moffitt's two field goals in the second frame were just a prelude of what was to come. While quarterback Blake Bortles was converting 17-of-24 passes for 210 yards, it was William Stanback who took over for the UCF offense and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns for the squad. Stanback finished with nine carries for 74 yards.

Against a Houston offense that has great potential, the Knights clamped down and allowed just 367 yards on 75 plays, limiting the visitors to less than 25 minutes of possession. E.J. Dunston tallied just four tackles for the hosts, but two of those came as sacks, while Jacoby Glenn registered an interception and a forced fumble along the way.

"The effort was outstanding," coach O'Leary said of his defense. "We were really down people (due to injuries). But I thought the kids hung in there and did what they had to do at the end to win the game. I thought the effort was great and really kept us in the game."

In terms of defense overall this season, UCF currently ranks fourth in the conference and 23rd in the nation with only 351.3 ypg allowed. Glenn may have only two interceptions at the moment, but he is easily one of the top pass defenders in the conference with 10 pass breakups and 12 passes defended.

Bortles is the leader of the offense, having converted better than 67 percent of his pass attempts for 15 touchdowns and only five INTs, but having Stanback (five TDs) and Storm Johnson (719 yards, nine TDs) ready to break out of the backfield has to be a good feeling for the quarterback.

Bringing up the rear in the AAC, the Owls can't seem to do much of anything right these days. The defense has been particularly woeful with Temple ranking 10th in the conference and 117th in the nation with a staggering 507.9 ypg allowed. The secondary has taken a huge beating with 322.2 ypg permitted, again 10th in the league and 121st in the country.

On the offensive side, the outlook may not look quite as bleak, but it isn't very promising either. After nine games the Owls are producing just 22.3 ppg (99th nationally), stemming from 150.9 ypg rushing (97th) and 222.9 ypg through the air (72nd).

While he may be second on the unit in terms of total rushing yards, trailing Zaire Williams who has 486, Kenneth Harper could be the top offensive threat for Temple these days given that he has scored nine touchdowns on the ground and is averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry.

Although he is just a freshman, P.J. Walker is slated to get the start at quarterback for the hosts, thanks in large part to his accuracy (.625) and his 11 touchdowns against five INTs in six games.

11/13 10:57:26 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 31
UCONN 21
Final
CHA 79
IND 88
Final
CAL 5
CAR 0
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
CAR
8:07pm Tonight
SFG
KAN
Final
CHA 79
IND 88
Final
DET 109
PHI 103
Final
NOP 88
DAL 85
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
DAL
 
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
NYK
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
MIA
 
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
MIN
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
SAN
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
PHO
 
10:00pm Tonight
LAL
SAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
DEN
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
POR
 
Final
ECU 31
UCONN 21
Final
VT 6
MIAMI 30
7:00pm Tonight
CIN
SFLA
7:30pm Tonight
SALABAMA
TROY
9:00pm Tonight
BSU
BYU
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
OREG
Final
BOS 2
NYI 3
Final
DET 4
PIT 3
Final
MIN 2
ARI 0
Final
NAS 3
CHI 2
Final
STL 1
VAN 4
Final
CAL 5
CAR 0
Final
LOS 2
BUF 0
Final
SJS 4
CLB 5
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
DAL
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
TAM
9:00pm Tonight
COL
VAN
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
CAR
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
CLB
Final
DEN 35
SDC 21