This will be just the fourth meeting between the teams, but the first since 2000. The teams were scheduled to meet in 2017, but Hurricane Irma forced the schools to cancel the contest. The Yellow Jackets are 3-0 all-time against UCF.
The Knights are coming off a 10-3 season and third straight ranked finish. No. 14 UCF closed the season on a three-game winning streak and is a remarkable 35-4 since 2017.
UCF at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: UCF -7.5
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
Save for a pair of ill-advised interceptions against Florida State, true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims looked very good in his debut. Sims passed for 277 yards and a touchdown and also paced the ground attack. Sims finished with a team-high 64 rushing yards against the Seminoles although Jordan Mason (55 yds., TD) came on strong in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets have big targets for Sims in 6-foot-3 Malachi Carter, Jalen Camp and Marquez Ezzard (both 6-2). The Georgia Tech offensive line also did a nice job last week, allowing just one sack against one of the most talented defensive lines in the country. The Yellow Jackets finished with 438 yards of total offense, which was more than they had in any game all last season.
Last season, UCF ranked third in the American Athletic Conference in total defense and second in scoring defense. The Knights will have to replace a couple of key pieces to the defense in last season's sacks leader Brendon Hayes and leading tackler Nate Evans. The strength for UCF in 2020 however, will likely be the secondary.
UCF is deep, talented and experienced along the back end. Although he had a down year numbers-wise in 2019, safety Richie Grant is one of the better players in the country at his position. Aaron Robinson and Antwan Collier combined for seven interceptions a season ago and both return for a senior season. As a secondary last season, UCF allowed the fewest yards per completion in the AAC and was third in the entire FBS.
When UCF Has the Ball
As Sims hopes to do for Georgia Tech this season, Dillon Gabriel did for UCF last season and that was exceed all expectations as a true freshman quarterback. Gabriel ranked 13th nationally in passer rating last season and second in the AAC. Gabriel finished with 29 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, but he will have to find a new No. 1 target following the departure of Gabriel Davis.
Behind Gabriel may be the deepest backfield in the country. Otis Anderson, Bentavious Thompson and Greg McCrae all finished with more than 500 rushing yards a season ago. The trio combined to average 6.2 yards per carry. With the exception of tackle Marcus Tatum, a transfer from Tennessee, UCF is young up front.
Georgia Tech was dismal last season defensively, but are coming off a strong performance against Florida State. The Yellow Jackets held FSU to 307 yards, 3.1 yards per carry, and forced three turnovers. Sophomore Curtis Ryans impressed last week with a pair of sacks against the Seminoles.
The leader of the defense for the Yellow Jackets, however, is senior linebacker David Curry. The leading tackler in 2019, Curry tallied six stops, a sack and a fumble recovery last week. Linebacker Quez Jackson led the team with nine tackles and an interception against the Seminoles.
Picked last in the ACC in the preseason, Georgia Tech made believers out of fans in Atlanta after last week's performance. Compared to Florida State however, UCF is better in the offensive backfield, which should make a big difference on Saturday. For Georgia Tech to have a chance, the defense will have to continue to be opportunistic. UCF is plus-27 in turnover margin over the last three seasons.
Prediction: UCF 30, Georgia Tech 20
Podcast: The Big Ten Returns & Week 3 Preview
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.