CINCINNATI —How do you slow down an explosive offense in No. 18 UCF that is looking to go “1-0?” The Cincinnati Bearcats head coach said the team has been working on the strategy since before the season started.
“Now, I don’t know if anyone is quite the tempo that UCF is, so it’s very hard to simulate,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday during a media conference. “But those are the things you’re doing as you can in camp, and in your preseason, as much as anything.”
Last season, the then-ranked No. 11 UCF Knights took on and defeated the previously ranked No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats 38-13 in front of a sold-out Bounce House as ESPN’s College GameDay made its first-ever appearance at UCF.
Holding the Bearcats scoreless in two quarters and recovering three fumbles during the November 2018 game, UCF marked its third straight victory over Cincinnati and leads the series 3-1 heading into Friday’s game.
With only one loss this season to Ohio State, the Bearcats can’t be underestimated.
With UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel leading the Knights on almost all snaps so far, the true freshman heads into the matchup completing 74-for-120 on 1,338 yards with two interceptions and 14 touchdowns, ranking No. 6 in the nation in passing efficiency.
Completing 63-for-98 on 815 yards with three interceptions and eight touchdowns, Cincinnati sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder trails behind Gabriel at No. 35 in passing efficiency.
After defeating the UConn Huskies in the American Athletic Conference schedule opener, the UCF Knights ranked No. 18 in The AP Top 25 Poll Sunday.
The 56-21 victory over their conference opponents Saturday helped the Knights rise four spots from the No. 22 rank the team landed in Week 5 after facing their first regular season loss in 1,037 days against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
With the victory, the Knights improved to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the conference.
For the first time this season, the Knights aren’t the only team in the AAC to rank in The AP Top 25 Poll. The SMU Mustangs, who haven’t ranked in the top 25 since 1986, landed the No. 24 spot after a dominant performance Saturday against the USF Bulls.
UCF senior linebacker Nate Evans Jr. said the team is staying focused is expecting a full stadium and live environment from the Cincinnati crowd in their home stadium.
“I expect them to come out fired up, hype – just to get a shot at us again,” Evans Jr. said. “We’ve got a bull’s-eye on our target and we’ve had that since week one.”
The Knights face the Bearcats in Cincinnati Friday at Nippert Stadium, marking the first conference game of the season for the Bearcats and the second for the Knights. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.