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UCF’s Week 3 Checklist vs. Stanford

Here are the matchups and positions to watch during today’s showdoown with the Cardinal

Let’s see if Gabriel Davis can come up with these types of catches today against perhaps the best cornerback in college football.
Photo: Derek Warden

1. Can the Knights take advantage of Stanford’s O-line injuries?

The Stanford Cardinal offensive line won’t have either of its starting offensive tackles on the field today. Left tackle Walker Little, the team’s only returning starter along the line and a possible first-round NFL Draft pick, will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. And right tackle Foster Sarell, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2017 and a 6-foot-7 behemoth, is considered doubtful to play. So, keep your eyes on UCF Knights’ defensive ends — namely, Brendon Hayes, Randy Charlton, Tre’mon Morris-Brash, Landon Woodson and Kalia Davis — to see how they can take advantage of Stanford’s edge issues.

2. Who wins: WR Gabriel Davis or CB Paulson Adebo?

There is no one-on-one matchup I’m looking forward to more than the one between Davis and Adebo. Davis has looked dominant so far this season, but to be fair, he was facing inferior secondaries. Let’s see what he can do against a future NFL starter today.

There may be no better cornerback in college football than Adebo. There is definitely no CB who is better when the ball is in the air. He recorded 24 passes defended last year (20 pass breakups and four interceptions). The 6-foot-1 junior is fully expected to declare for the draft after this season and has found himself on a bevy of preseason watch lists. I can’t wait to see how the 6-foot-3 Davis deals with Adebo’s length, especially down the field. Davis is fabulous at skying up over cornerbacks, but he won’t face a CB this season who is more competitive when the ball is in the air than Abedo. Get your popcorn ready.

3. How will the Knights employ their three-headed quarterback monster?

Josh Heupel, as is his wont, didn’t publicly say this week who will be the Knights’ starting QB versus Stanford. However, UCF (possibly inadvertently) has let the cat out of the bag. Just fast-forward to about the 1:35 mark of this video and listen to how many times Marc Daniels drops Dillon Gabriel’s name.

So, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Gabriel will be starting today.

Or maybe that’s just what they want us to think.

Anyway, Brandon Wimbush is set to play after missing the FAU game due to an undisclosed injury. Heupel said Thursday that Wimbush is back to full strength. And then Darriel Mack Jr. is apparently ready to go as well. He didn’t start practicing with the offense until last week, but Heupel and quarterbacks coach Jeff Lebby have hinted that we could see Mack play in his first game since the Fiesta Bowl today.

I would honestly be surprised if Mack, who missed all of training camp due to a broken ankle and didn’t start practicing with the offense until last week, is out there this afternoon for any snaps while the game is close. I’m more interested in seeing how Heupel splits the reps between Gabriel and Wimbush.

4. Which team controls the pace?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this Cardinal team isn’t as talented as some of its previous iterations. Besides the offensive line injuries, Stanford’s defense is also banged up in a couple of spots and just allowed 45 points to USC. If Stanford has a chance today, it’s because quarterback K.J. Costello is able to protect the ball and keep drives alive with safe, accurate throws. The Cardinal has logged three drives of 7 minutes or longer this season. That old-school style of offense may be the Cardinal’s best defense today.

Otherwise, if Stanford’s offense can’t get into a rhythm, this one might get ugly — or pretty if you’re a Knights fan.