ORLANDO, Fla. – No. 16 Central Florida looks to add a pair of victories over Power Five teams to its resume before American Athletic Conference play begins, starting with a home matchup against Stanford on Saturday afternoon. UCF, which visits Pittsburgh next week, rolled over Florida A&M 62-0 in its opener at home and was just as impressive last Saturday when it triumphed 48-14 at Florida Atlantic for a 24th straight regular-season victory.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: UCF -7.5
The big question for the Knights is who will coach Josh Heupel turn to under center as senior Brandon Wimbush started the opener while freshman Dillon Gabriel got the call at Florida Atlantic, and sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. (ankle) was cleared to play this week after throwing for 348 yards in the AAC title game last year. "There's some reps that have been missed," Heupel told reporters of Mack. "The last couple weeks, he's been throwing routes on air and moving, doing escape drills, and his movement is where we need it to be. … He's got as much experience or more than anyone in the room in playing in our offense." Stanford beat Northwestern 17-7 in the opener before falling 45-20 in its Pac-12 lidlifter at USC last week and senior quarterback K.J. Costello (concussion) is expected to return after missing the last game for coach David Shaw, who knows the Cardinal are facing a different team than the one they beat 31-7 in 2015. "They're night and day from the team we played years ago," Shaw told reporters. "Bigger, faster, longer. … They've done a lot, they've won a lot and they play the game fast but they play the game well."
ABOUT STANFORD (1-1)
Costello was 16-of-20 for 152 yards with a touchdown in the victory over Northwestern before junior Davis Mills threw for 237 yards with a TD and an interception against USC. Junior wide receiver Connor Wedington finished with a career-high 187 all-purpose yards in last week's setback and leads the way with 12 catches for 136 yards along with a touchdown while junior tight end Colby Parkinson has gained another 127 on 11 receptions for the Cardinal. Senior running back Cameron Scarlett leads the ground attack with 179 yards but the offense took a big hit when junior tackle Walker Little, who made the preseason Outland Trophy watch list, was lost for the season with a knee injury.
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (2-0)
While Mack and Wimbush are experienced options, senior tackle Jake Brown has been impressed with Gabriel's presence, telling the Orlando Sentinel: "He does not act like a freshman. You wouldn't believe it. He acts like a senior. He leads and does his thing." Gabriel has five TD passes and two of them have gone to junior receiver Gabriel Davis, who has six catches for 166 yards in the first two contests. The Knights are also deep at running back with four players rushing for at least 100 yards in the early going, including sophomore Bentavious Thompson (155, one TD), junior Greg McCrae (149, two), senior Adrian Killins Jr. (143, two) and junior Otis Anderson (112, one).
1. The last time the Cardinal played in the state of Florida was when they beat Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, 2011.
2. Killins, who has 217 yards from scrimmage in the first two games, needs one TD to become the fourth player in school history with 30.
3. Stanford senior LB Casey Toohill leads the team with a pair of sacks and boasts 12 tackles - 3.5 for a loss.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 35, Stanford 24