ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida keeps winning and dropping in the rankings, but the Knights are focused on a second straight American Athletic Conference Championship when they host struggling Navy on Saturday afternoon. No. 11 UCF boasts a nation-best 21 straight victories and is coming off a wild 52-40 victory over Temple last week as it prepares to face a Navy team that has lost six consecutive games.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN2. LINE: UCF -25.5
“The only thing we talk about inside of our program is the next opponent,” Central Florida coach Josh Heupel told reporters. “We understand the test you have every week in this league. They force you to be extremely disciplined and have great eyes, trust your key, and make plays in space.” Junior quarterback McKenzie Milton returned after a one-game injury absence to throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Temple and sophomore running back Greg McCrae has emerged as a major threat the past few weeks. The Midshipman suffered a 42-0 loss last week against No. 23 Cincinnati after giving Notre Dame and Houston tough battles, and will not be in a bowl game for the first time since 2011. “We’re licking our wounds right now,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo told reporters. “We got beat pretty good by a good Cincinnati team. We’ve never been beat like that. We’ve got to bounce back against the best team in our conference. … It’s going to be another tall order for us.”
ABOUT NAVY (2-7, 1-4 American)
The Midshipmen are still third in the nation in rushing after finishing second in 2017, but senior quarterback Garret Lewis missed last week’s game with an injury as Navy was held to 124 yards on the ground. Senior Zach Abey took over under center last week, completing 3-of-4 passes for 47 yards, and junior Malcolm Perry has rushed for 882 yards this season along with seven TDs at both quarterback and running back. Senior linebacker Taylor Heflin leads the Navy defense with 62 tackles, including six for loss and three sacks along with a fumble recovery.
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (8-0, 5-0)
Milton started the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate and has completed 58.4 percent of his passes while accounting for 26 touchdowns, but will have to finish the season banged up. “I think football, for the most part, you don’t play 100 percent except for maybe Game 1,” Milton told reporters. “You’re going to have nicks and bruises all year long, but you know, I don’t think that’s ever an excuse to not go out there and perform. I never looked for an excuse not to perform.” McCrae has gained 287 yards on 21 carries over the last two games.
1. Navy has dropped 10 consecutive games away from home, including all four this season.
2. UCF sophomore WR Gabriel Davis leads the team with 35 receptions, 556 yards and five touchdowns.
3. The Knights won the only previous meeting last season 31-21 as junior RB Adrian Killins Jr. rushed for 122 yards and two TDs.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 52, Navy 21
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