In preparation for Saturday’s non-conference showdown between UCF and Missouri, Saturday Down South is taking a look at the key matchups that may decide the showdown between the Knights and Tigers.

UCF WRs vs. Missouri DBs

Don’t discount UCF’s passing game just because Blake Bortles now throws passes for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Knights returned four of their top five receivers from a unit that helped power the team to a BCS bowl win against Baylor in January.

Missouri was able to shut down Toledo’s offense last week mainly because defensive ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray applied such consistent and immediate pressure on the Rockets’ quarterbacks. The Tigers also have excelled at creating takeaways.

Lockdown coverage by the defensive backs? Not so much.

South Dakota State’s backup quarterback moved the ball at will by throwing at Aarion Penton again and again until Penton finally made an interception. Phillip Ely had open receivers downfield Saturday, but didn’t have time to find them before Mizzou knocked him out of the game.

Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel needs to continue to devise ways for his unit to disrupt the timing of the opposing quarterback with blitzes and by mixing coverages, because Missouri isn’t good enough to play a vanilla defense and win 1-on-1 matchups against skilled receivers and running backs.

UCF’s receiving corps is as deep as any group in the country, which may actually work in Missouri’s favor.

Penton, John Gibson, David Johnson, Kenya Dennis and Duron Singleton all have spent time in coverage. Penton can make plays — he leads the team with two interceptions — but is a long way from approximating E.J. Gaines. Dennis is a junior college transfer who has continued to improve since he arrived in Columbia, Mo., but all his progress has only been good enough to elevate him to stats as cornerback 2b.

None of the cornerbacks are particularly good in press coverage and so far the unit hasn’t tackled well either, especially when running backs reach the second level. (Strong safety Braylon Webb has been somewhat invisible through two games, though he easily is the most talented player in the secondary.)

But there’s not a huge dropoff between Gibson, corner 2a, and Missouri’s fourth and fifth options.

UCF receivers J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall and Josh Reese all are seniors, while junior Breshad Perriman may be the lone holdover next year. Bortles was good enough to get drafted No. 3 overall in May, but his 3,581 passing yards in 2013 were no one-way street. Worton, Hall and company have speed, wiggles and excellent hands.

a Knights appeared to find a quarterback in the second half against Penn State, as Justin Holman completed 9 of 14 passes for 204 yards in place of starter Pete DiNovo.

In SEC East play, Missouri will face Georgia and Tennessee, two teams with deep, speedy receiving corps. The Tigers don’t need their corners to morph into All-Americans. Continuing to pick off a pass or two every game, including this one, would make a big difference. The pass rush will continue to help. But Missouri needs the cornerbacks to provide tight coverage and break up a few passes on a more consistent basis.

It’s not all about the future, though. If Missouri doesn’t do an average-to-decent job in coverage, UCF’s receivers are good enough to threaten the Tigers with an upset.