CINCINNATI, Ohio – Cincinnati hopes to match the performance from its last game and wash away the memories of their much-anticipated meeting in 2018 when the Bearcats host No. 19 Central Florida on Friday night in a key American Athletic Conference showdown. Cincinnati scored the first touchdown before losing 38-13 at UCF last year, but is coming off a dominant effort on both sides of the ball in a 52-14 rout of Marshall on Sept. 28.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: UCF -4
The Bearcats outgained the Thundering Herd 525-256 last week and sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week with four touchdown passes while the defense kept Marshall off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. "I think the most important thing is it was probably the complete game we've been looking for," Bearcats' coach Luke Fickell told reporters. "I mean that - offense, defense and special teams." Cincinnati will have to be even better if it is to walk off the field with a victory Friday against the Knights, who rebounded from their first loss in 26 regular-season games by registering 607 yards of offense en route to a 56-21 rout of Connecticut to open their AAC slate as freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for three TDs to bring his total to 14 in five games. "The locker room after the game, the vibes and everything were off. ... It wasn't normal," UCF senior running back Adrian Killins Jr. told reporters of the 35-34 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 21. ". … (Last) Saturday we played lights out."
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (4-1, 1-0 AAC)
Gabriel recorded his first two interceptions of the year at Pittsburgh, but completed 11-of-16 for 281 yards against UConn and sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. (9-of-13, 97 yards, TD) got his first action after suffering offseason ankle injury. Coach Josh Heupel said senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush may get some looks as a receiver in the future, adding to a talented group that is led by junior Gabriel Davis (25 catches, 499 yards, eight TDs) and Tre Nixon (19, 290, two). Killins and junior Greg McCrae pace a strong ground attack for the Knights (232.6 yards per game, 19th in the nation) with each running for at least 300 and scoring four touchdowns apiece.
ABOUT CINCINNATI (3-1, 0-0)
Ridder completed 18-of-22 passes for 221 yards last week and has two very dependable targets in sophomore receiver Alec Pierce (14 receptions, 277 yards, TD) along with senior tight end Josiah Deguara (12, 183, three), who Ficken said is headed for the next level. "He has the opportunity to continue to play this game (professionally)," Ficken told reporters. "I wish we had him for longer and we'll continue to use him." The Bearcats' defense has held opponents to 14 points or fewer in their three wins - despite giving up 42 in a loss to Ohio State - with junior safety Darrick Forrest (26 tackles) and junior linebacker Michael Pitts (four sacks) leading the way.
1. Killins (2,140) needs 31 rushing yards to move from ninth to seventh in school history and 134 all-purpose yards to become the seventh UCF player to reach 4,000.
2. Cincinnati senior RB Michael Warren II leads the team with 262 yards rushing and needs 85 to become the 13th Bearcat to accumulate 2,000 on the ground.
3. The Bearcats have been penalized the fifth-most yards nationally at 82.8 per game while the Knights are 18th at 71.2.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 38, Cincinnati 28