PITTSBURGH – Central Florida passed its first test against a Power Five team with ease last week and the 16th-ranked Knights look to finish off a two-game sweep Saturday afternoon when they take their prolific offense on the road to play Pittsburgh of the ACC. UCF scored the first three touchdowns before the midpoint of the first quarter last Saturday and cruised to a 45-27 triumph against Stanford for its 25th straight regular-season victory.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 or ABC. LINE: UCF -12
"I think people that watch us play know that we play championship football," Knights coach Josh Heupel told reporters after UCF scored at least 30 points for the 29th consecutive contest. "We'll hold our own every single week. They're probably the most competitive group of kids that I've ever been around." UCF freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who has nine touchdown passes with zero interceptions after going 22-of-30 for 347 yards and four scores against Stanford, will try to continue his strong play against a Pittsburgh team that may have found itself last week in a heartbreaking 17-10 loss at No. 12 Penn State and a defense that boasts 12 sacks in three games. The Panthers also lost to 22nd-ranked Virginia in their ACC opener on Aug. 31 and hope to get a third straight 300-yard passing performance from junior quarterback Kenny Pickett, who completed 35 passes last week but Pittsburgh managed just one touchdown. "A loss is a loss," Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters. "It doesn't matter who it's to, when it is. It's a non-conference game. All our goals are still ahead of us. We've got a resilient football team that I love. We'll be fine."
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (3-0)
Gabriel has completed 61.3 percent of his passes over the first three games for 719 yards and senior Brandon Wimbush along with sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. also could see time in Saturday's contest. Junior walk-on Greg McCrae leads the team with 258 yards and three touchdowns on the ground while versatile senior Adrian Killins Jr. has accumulated 289 yards rushing and receiving for the Knights, who are third in the nation in total offense (604.3 yards per game). Gabriel Davis is the top receiver with 10 catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns and fellow junior Tre Nixon has hauled in 11 passes for another 149 yards with a pair of scores.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (1-2)
Pickett threw for just 163 yards in last year's loss at UCF, but had 372 last week against the Nittany Lions and has completed 63.6 percent of his passes in the early going. Pickett boasts two prime targets in senior Maurice Ffrench (24 catches, 235 yards, one TD) and junior Taysir Mack (21, 215), but the Panthers managed just 24 yards on 25 carries on the ground last week as junior A.J. Davis (team-best 119 rushing yards) had just five on eight attempts. Sophomore defensive back Paris Ford leads the defense with 20 tackles and sophomore defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman has 12 to go along with 4.5 sacks, tied for the fifth-most in the nation.
1. Pittsburgh has 17 players on its roster who are natives of Florida, which is second only to 40 from Pennsylvania.
2. UCF senior LB Nate Evans leads the way with 18 tackles for a defense ranked 13th in the nation in yards against per contest (253).
3. The Knights beat Pittsburgh 45-14 last year while registering 568 yards and the Panthers won the only other meeting 52-7 in 2006.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 35, Pittsburgh 21