No. 18 UCF (1-0) hasn't lost a regular-season game since 2016, with their most recent triumph being a 62-0 crushing of Florida A&M in the season opener.
Despite the victory, UCF still dropped one spot in the AP poll to No. 18. Making his first start at quarterback for UCF, Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush completed 12-of-23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. UCF will be the first ranked team to face FAU at Howard Schnellenberger Field in Boca Raton. The Owls are looking for their first victory of the season after falling at No. 5 Ohio State 45-21.
To slow down one of the nation's most prolific offenses, FAU will need to pressure Wimbush and backup Dillon Gabriel, who is also expected to play. FAU coach Lane Kiffin likes to substitute liberally along a defensive line that goes at least 10 deep. That defensive line didn't produce any sacks at Ohio State and UCF didn't allow a single sack against Florida A&M. If Wimbush and Company have time, this could get out of hand early.
Kiffin sees the program he'd like his Owls to become in UCF.
"I think it's the program that every Group of Five program aspires to be," Kiffin said. "They've won as many games as anybody in the last couple years in the country."
Kiffin's first season gave the Owls hope that they could quickly replicate the success of their neighbors to the north. However, the Owls followed an 11-3 record and first Conference USA title in 2017 with a 5-7 effort last season.
"They are a great team, a great program, been winning for a long time, have done it over decades," Kiffin said. "We haven't yet. We did it for a year."
Central Florida pummeled Florida A&M 62-0 in its season opener. FAU fell behind No. 5 Ohio State 28-0 in the first 10 minutes of its season opener before the Owls' defense improved a bit in what became a 45-21 loss.
"After that they played extremely physical, settled into their game plan," UCF coach Josh Heupel said. "I thought they handled the running game from Ohio State from the second quarter on really well. Didn't give up big plays in the passing game. They are an experienced group on the back end - a lot of the same guys who played from a year ago."
UCF is the first ranked team to visit Howard Schnellenberger Field, which opened in 2011. The Owls have never beaten a ranked team on any field.
With fewer than 500 tickets remaining Friday morning, FAU officials are optimistic they'll sell out their 29,495-seat stadium for only the second time.
"We have a lot of guys that are from down in that area," Heupel said. "We have a large fan base. We expect a lot of our fans to show up and be wearing black and gold on Saturday night."
Both offenses trace their roots to Art Briles' ultra-uptempo Baylor offenses. Kiffin hired former Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Art's son and current FSU coordinator, for the same position at FAU in 2017. The Owls' 2019 offensive scheme is a blend of Kendal's and Kiffin's principles. UCF offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby also served as an assistant on Art Briles' Baylor staff.
Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush beat out true freshman Dillon Gabriel to start the season opener at quarterback. Wimbush completed 12-of-23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns against the Rattlers. Gabriel also impressed, missing on only four of his 13 passes while throwing three touchdowns.
"Both of them earned the opportunity to continue to play football for us," Heupel said.
Kiffin hoped former Alabama running back BJ Emmons would anchor a running back rotation this fall, but Emmons broke an ankle on his first carry against Ohio St. and is expected to miss the season.
Having lost three starters and a key reserve to graduation, UCF entered the season with an unproven defensive line. The replacements fared well in Week 1, as the Knights allowed Florida A&M only 96 yards of total offense.
The athletic director's stadium suite boxes will pit brother against brother when UCF's Danny White visits brother Brian for the first time. Danny holds a 1-0 advantage following last season's 56-36 victory in Orlando.
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