Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls don't seem to prioritize easing into a schedule. After falling at No. 5 Ohio State last week, the Owls will head home to host a team that hasn't lost a regular-season game since 2016.
No. 18 UCF had no problem in its opener as the Knights easily disposed of FCS opponent Florida A&M, 62-0. With Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush under center, UCF didn't miss a beat as it scored early and often. The Knights finished with nearly 700 yards of offense in the victory.
Although the Owls found themselves down 28-0 midway through the first quarter last week in Columbus, they can take solace in the fact that they outscored the Buckeyes over the game's final 51 minutes. The Knights won a 56-36 shootout last season when the teams met in Orlando. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton accounted for 387 yards and six total touchdowns in the victory.
The Knights are 2-0 all-time in the series. FAU has never defeated a ranked opponent.
UCF at FAU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: UCF -10.5
When UCF Has the Ball
Brandon Wimbush was far from flawless in his first game with UCF, but the senior transfer did account for two touchdown passes. Freshman Dillon Gabriel, who like McKenzie Milton is a Hawaii native, looked very good in relief as well, throwing three touchdowns.
The Knights did a nice job of spreading the ball around against Florida A&M as three different players rushed for more than 50 yards and three different receivers had more than 60 yards receiving. Five different receivers caught a touchdown in the victory.
It's no secret that the Knights have an explosive 1-2 punch at tailback with Greg McCrae and Adrian Killins, but sophomore Bentavious Thompson also shined with 64 yards on just six carries. Killins led all rushers with 106 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Last season's leading receiver Gabriel Davis led the team with 68 yards receiving and a pair of scores in the opener, but overall, 12 different Knights caught a pass.
FAU was hit in the mouth against Ohio State last week, but over the final three quarters, held the Buckeyes to just 249 yards and 17 points. The Owls did manage a pair of takeaways. Linebacker Rashad Smith led the team with 11 total tackles.
Last season, Florida Atlantic ranked 11th in Conference USA in both total and scoring defense. Defensive tackle Noah Jefferson and cornerback James Pierre are two players to watch for the FAU defense.
When FAU Has the Ball
Replacing Devin Singletary is proving to be a tall task for Florida Atlantic. Although it was against a top-five team, the Owls managed just 228 yards of offense in the season opener.
Quarterback Chris Robison is a second-year starter, but is largely a game manager and will need to find a way to make plays against the Knights on Saturday. FAU isn't great at running back or wide receiver, but does have a nice duo of tight ends in Harrison Bryant and John Raine.
The two combined for 12 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown last week. Bryant is tough to cover at 6-foot-5. Senior offensive tackle Brandon Walton is the best that Florida Atlantic has up front.
Opening up with an FCS school makes it difficult to assess the strength of the UCF defense, but in the opener, the Knights allowed just 96 total yards and shut out Florida A&M. As a team, UCF recorded 12 tackles for a loss, led by Chris DeLoach's 1.5. Although he was relatively quiet in the opener, junior safety Richie Grant is still regarded as the team's best defensive player.
Although the sample size is very small, UCF comes into Saturday's contest ranking second in total offense and fourth nationally in total defense. The Florida Atlantic offense did an admirable job against the Knights last season with 36 points, but the loss of Singletary looks to be a void the Owls will have a tough time filling. Given UCF's depth at the skill positions, it's doubtful that FAU will be able to score enough points to make Saturday's contest really interesting.
Prediction: UCF 35, FAU 16
(Top photo courtesy of @UCF_Football)