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Taggart has high praise for UCF defense

UCF's Shaquill Griffin, a Lakewood High alumnus, tackles USF tailback Marlon Mack (5) during the Bulls' 44-3 rout in Orlando last season.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

UCF's Shaquill Griffin, a Lakewood High alumnus, tackles USF tailback Marlon Mack (5) during the Bulls' 44-3 rout in Orlando last season.

21

November

In a rivalry that requires no hyperbole, USF coach Willie Taggart gave none Monday.

During his weekly appearance on the American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference, Taggart said UCF will be "by far, the best defense we've played since Temple."

Statistically, he's spot on. The Knights, who come to Raymond James Stadium for a noon encounter with potentially huge East Division implications, are ranked fourth in the conference -- and 35th nationally -- in total defense (370.6 ypg).

Especially stingy against the pass, UCF has 14 interceptions -- third-most in the league -- and ranks first in the AAC in pass-efficiency defense (104.25). Prior to last weekend, when the Knights surrendered more than 300 rushing yards to Tulsa, they were among the top 50 nationally against the run.

"I think (overall defensive speed) is what it is more than anything," Taggart said. "They don't stop, they all run to the ball and it creates a lot of bad, negative plays for you because of that. But (Knights coach Scott Frost) has 'em playing hard and fast, and they like to hit."

BALLOT BIAS? Houston coach Tom Herman strongly suggested Monday what many AAC partisans have believed: The Associated Press rankings are biased against the Group of Five leagues.

Houston moved back into the top 25 -- but only to No. 18 -- after its 36-10 embarrassment Thursday of Louisville, the second top-five opponent it has defeated by double digits this season. No other AAC team was ranked, though Navy (62 points), USF (24) and Temple (1) also received votes.

The latest Tampa Bay Times ballot ranked Houston 13th and USF 24th.

"I see some teams in the top 25 that have multiple losses to unranked teams," said Herman, whose team has fallen to Navy and SMU.

"Yet we have beaten two different (top-five) teams in the country, and yeah, we didn't play well on a couple of different occasions, but I'm not sure why they get that same kind of forgiveness and we don't."

Actually, there's nothing to forgive. No team currently ranked ahead of Houston has two losses to unranked teams. 

ODDS AND ENDS: Bulls QB Quinton Flowers made the AAC weekly honor roll after totaling 337 yards at SMU. Flowers (333.8 ypg) has overtaken Houston's Greg Ward Jr. (329.4) for the conference lead in total offense. ... When asked to name any possible Heisman contenders from the AAC, Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville mentioned Flowers, Bulls WR Rodney Adams and TB Marlon Mack, adding he thinks all three "could play for any football team in the country." ... The Bulls moved up five spots nationally, from No. 108 to 103, in run defense (218.1 ypg) after holding SMU to 155 yards on the ground.

AUDIBLE: "The teams that have beat 'em have scored a lot, so history tells you that you're gonna have to do that. I trust our defense; I wouldn't trade our defense for many or any in this conference. Now that being said, USF has some special players on offense, some guys that have been in that system for a while. It's gonna be a challenge for us." -- Frost, when asked if his team must score at least 35 points Saturday to have a chance

[Last modified: Monday, November 21, 2016 2:36pm]

    

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