Since Week 3 of last season, FAU and UCF have combined for only one loss over their last 26 games, separating themselves as the clear front-runners in their respective conferences.
The Knights faced some offseason adversity ahead of their self-proclaimed national title defending season after losing coach Scott Frost to Nebraska.
First-year man Josh Heupel has assuaged any fears of a drop-off.
The Heupel-led Knights haven’t skipped a beat after entering the year on a country-best 13-game winning streak, extending the run to 15 with poundings of UConn and South Carolina State to start the 2018 season.
Not only are the Knights at home for this nationally televised matchup, they also have the advantage of time.
UCF was set to take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill this past Saturday but Hurricane Florence forced the game to be canceled. That essentially gave the Knights a bye week to both rest their bodies and get extra studying in on coach Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad.
Will the Knights get right back on track after the extended break or fall victim to rust? The Owls are hoping for the latter.
THE FILE : FAU (2-1, 0-0) vs. No. 16 UCF (2-0, 0-0)
One of the most explosive offenses in college football, UCF has shown an impressive balance to start the 2018 season, averaging more than 300 yards per game both through the air and on the ground. Its 609 total yards per game is No. 2 in the country behind only pass-happy Texas Tech. There are weapons galore for the Knights offensively, making it difficult for opposing defenses to key on one player to stop. Containing the UCF offense is about picking your poison: If teams add defenders to the box to stop the Knights’ stable of speedy running backs, quarterback McKenzie Milton will beat them deep. But if they choose to play conservatively against Milton and the UCF passing attack, they will be gashed for big gains right up the gut.
Offensive Players to Watch:
- 10 McKenzie Milton, Jr, QB: Pound for pound one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the nation, Milton is coming off a 2017 season where he ranked fourth nationally with 37 passing touchdowns. While he can make all the throws in the pocket, what makes Milton special is his ability to drop dimes to his receivers on the run when plays break down. The Hawaii-native signal caller has thrown for 589 yards to go along with six touchdowns and three picks through the first two games of the 2018 season. “Really great touch,” Kiffin said of Milton. “Makes a lot of plays out of rhythm, scrambling around. Really, really special player.”
- 9 Adrian Killins Jr., Jr, RB: What Killins may lack in size – listed at 5-foot-8, 164 pounds – he more than makes up for in speed. A big play waiting to happen, Killins produced 959 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage last season – all on 6.5 yards per touch. He has raised his efficiency to an ever higher level in 2018, hitting 8.8 yards per touch.
- 16 Tre Nixon, R-So, WR: An Ole Miss transfer, Nixon’s combination of elite athleticism and catch-in-traffic ability has added a new dynamic to an already dangerous Knights offense. The six-foot-two vertical threat has already become one of Milton’s go-to guys, hauling in 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns against UConn – his very first game donning the black and gold.
The Knights’ defense lived off of turnovers in 2017 – 2.5 forced per game was No. 2 in the country – and have picked up right where they left off. Through its first two games of 2018, UCF snagged four interceptions and recovered two fumbles defensively. That 3.0 mark would have been tops in the country a season prior. Where the Knights struggle is defending mobile quarterbacks. UCF allowed 117.5 rushing yards per game to opposing passers to start the season, with UConn’s David Pindell doing the majority of the damage with 157 of his own in Week 1.
Defensive Players to Watch:
- 56 Pat Jasinski, Sr, LB: A tough run-stuffer in the heart of UCF’s front seven, Jasinski was his team’s leading tackler a season ago despite sharing the field with star linebacker Shaquem Griffin. His underrated play has carried into 2018, where he’s notched 19 tackles and a forced fumble through two games.
- 14 Richie Grant, R-So, FS: Grant has been the perfect embodiment of UCF’s ball-hawking mentality defensively. The 6-foot defensive back picked off two passes and recovered a fumble in this early portion of the season, good for half of his team’s six forced turnovers.
- 10 Titus Davis, Sr, DE: He made the change from outside linebacker to defensive end this past offseason, but Davis has shown the same burst and quick-twitch ability he had as a stand-up player. A nightmare for offensive tackles when he comes off the edge, Davis has seven tackles and a sack through two games.