The most anticipated season in UCF Football history is almost upon us. After what felt like a never-ending offseason, it's almost time for the Knights to take the field again. All eyes will be on UCF as their National Championship created a lot of noise in the college football world over the past eight months. Will McKenzie Milton and the Knights be able to pick back up where they left off?
The 21st-ranked Knights and the Huskies will kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut
Last meeting: 2017. Despite winning convincingly by a score of 49-24, the Huskies definitely gave UCF some good competition in last season's matchup. Going into the 4th quarter, this was a 28-17 game. UConn had more than 400 yards of total offense and even had more first downs than the Knights. Despite a valiant effort, UCF eventually pulled away, led by dominating performances from Adrian Killins and McKenzie Milton.
Three Things You Should Know
17-1: That's UCF's all-time record while playing as an AP Top-25 ranked team. Their only loss as a ranked team came against Southern Miss in 2010, the first time they were in the polls. The Knights have never opened the season in the top-25 team and hold a 25-14 all-time first game record.
The common denominator: UCF and Boise State are the only two G5 teams to be ranked in the preseason AP Top-25. Many of the mainstream sports media believe it will either come down to the Knights or the Broncos to get the G5 New Year's Six bowl bid. The one opponent both teams have in common this season? The Connecticut Huskies.
Familiar Foe: Josh Heupel and the Missouri Tigers took on the Huskies last year in East Hartford. The Tigers' offense, led by the play calling of Heupel, scored 52 points and racked up 583 yards of offense:
Clearly, Josh knows how to dismantle this Husky defense so look for the scoreboard to light up in favor of UCF this Thursday.
UConn Coming In
It's no secret that UConn has struggled to find any sort of success with their football program in recent history. The Huskies haven't had a winning record since the 2010 season, which was current head coach Randy Edsall's final year there before leaving for Maryland. With so many underclassmen getting starts on both sides of the ball, it's hard to believe this season will be much different. Coming off a 3-9 season, the one bright spot is having a senior quarterback in David Pindell, who has experience starting games in Edsall's system from last year.
Listen to our preview of the game with Aman Kidwai of The UConn Blog:
When UCF Has the Ball
UCF Offense: Meeting expectations. UCF led the nation in points per game last season with 48.2. The biggest question is if first-year head coach Josh Heupel can maintain the same level of offensive production. There's no doubt in my mind that McKenzie and crew will pick up exactly where they left off, putting up big numbers in this conference matchup.
UConn Defense: Youth in numbers. The Huskies do not have a single senior starter on defense, according to their depth chart. With four freshman starters, the inexperience against a lethal offense like UCF is like mixing fire and gasoline. Things might get out of hand quickly if UConn can't somewhat contain the Knights offense.
When UConn Has the Ball
UConn Offense: Was it a fluke? The interesting thing to note was the success UConn's starting quarterback David Pindell had against the Knights last season. He was 18/31 for 201 yards with 2 touchdowns and also ran for 96 yards and a touchdown. If he can have similar success in this year's matchup, the Knights will most certainly have their hands full.
UCF Defense: The Makeover. With Randy Shannon taking over as defensive coordinator for the Knights, his 4-3 scheme is a big change from the 3-4 scheme UCF ran last season under Erik Chinander. That, combined with losing six defensive starters from last season, have lots of people questioning how successful this unit can be. With an opponent like UConn to start the season, this defense is going to have to show how dominant they can be, especially in the front seven.
Line: UCF -23.5. With the over/under at 74, the folks in Vegas are definitely expecting this to be a high scoring matchup, at least on one side.
Weather: There's the potential of thunderstorms early, but at night we should see cool weather in the mid-60s with increasing cloud cover. Expect to see winds from the NNE at 7 mph with gusts up to 9 mph. All in all, it should be a real pleasant night for some football.
Pick: UCF 45, UConn 17