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UCF Knights vs. UConn Huskies Prediction and Preview

UCK Knights QB McKenzie Milton

UCK Knights QB McKenzie Milton

The celebrations have come and gone, and now it is time for UCF to get back to business for the 2018 season. After running the table last season and staking a claim to a national championship banner, the Knights turn the page with a new head coach in Josh Heupel. The first-time head coach is walking into a pretty good spot with a team ready to make another run for the AAC crown.

First up is a road trip on Thursday night against Connecticut, where Randy Edsall is looking to get the program back on track in his second stint with the Huskies. A return to an older look and a handful of players that should benefit from opportunities to grow last year could lead to a season of improvement this fall, but are they ready to challenge UCF head-to-head as the 2018 season kicks off in the AAC?

UCF at UConn

Kickoff: Thursday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: UCF -23

Three Things to Watch

1. McKenzie Milton should light up UConn’s defense
As if having a quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard season wasn’t already a strong enough advantage for UCF, Milton will be going up against a defense that returns just two starters and ranked 130th in the nation in pass defense in 2017. That is a lot of ground to make up for the Huskies on defense and this is not the matchup to hope things break their way. Milton could flirt with a 400-yard passing game, something he did twice last season. The Huskies held him to 311 yards in last year’s meeting.

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2. No place like home? Not for UConn
As a young rebuilding program, it is expected UConn would have more than a handful of struggles, but even playing at home has not been the most kind to the Huskies in Edsall’s return. After narrowly escaping with a seven-point win against FCS opponent Holy Cross to begin last season, UConn went 1-4 at home with all but one of those losses coming by double digits. The Huskies were blown out at home by Memphis, Missouri, South Florida, and even East Carolina (who went 3-9 last season) managed to leave town with a win.

3. First game jitters for Heupel?
If there is anything UConn can look to as any sort of advantage, it may actually be with the coaching on the sidelines. Josh Heupel is making his head coaching debut, while Edsall is a seasoned veteran who is back in his comfort zone with UConn. Heupel may prove to be a worthy successor to Scott Frost, but the fact this is his first time calling all of the shots should not be forgotten. It’s a bit of a brand new game with this job, but he inherits quite a team to take over to help make for an easy transition.

Final Analysis

There’s no way to sugar coat this one for UConn. It should be a long night. UCF holds physical and athletic advantages across the field at every position and with every matchup on the field. The Knights may not be quite as good as they were a year ago, but they are well ahead of where UConn will be at the start of the 2018 season. If this game were being played up north in late October or November, maybe UConn would have a shot to pull off a major upset. But in Week 1, that seems to be an unlikely outcome. McKenzie Milton should rack up plenty of yardage and stuff the box score to get the year started on a strong foot, and UCF should cruise to a road victory to begin the 2018 season.

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Prediction: UCF 49, UConn 23

-- Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.

(Top photo courtesy of UCF Athletics)