UCF Knights vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Saturday, September 19, 2020 – 3:30 p.m. ET at Bobby Dodd Stadium
It’s always nice to win your first game of the season. It’s even sweeter when it comes against a conference opponent on the road as a 2-touchdown underdog, like what happened to Georgia Tech last weekend. The Yellow Jackets now get a chance to show that was no fluke and beat a ranked team when the UCF Knights come to Atlanta.
While Georgia Tech got to knock off its first-game jitters last week, this will be the long-anticipated season opener for UCF. The two sides will have a national audience tuning in mid-afternoon on ABC and the college football odds opened with the Knights laying 7½, some shops dropping it to an even TD with 62 for the total.
A Month Later, Knights Finally Taking The Field
We have to excuse head coach Josh Heupel and his team if they’re a little wary of this game actually taking place, after the scheduling nightmare the Knights have been through. They were originally supposed to open at home against North Carolina when the 2020 slates first came out, but that opener was canceled when the ACC fixture was finally settled upon. Central Florida also had both Florida A&M and Florida International pull out of their trips to Orlando.
The Knights will be anxious to prove why they were the heavy favorites on NCAAF futures to win the American Athletic Conference. Priced around -110 at many of the best sports betting sites, UCF was expected to build off a 10-3 showing a year ago, the three defeats by a total of seven points. And the Knights are just two years removed from a 12-0 regular season that put them in the Fiesta Bowl, where LSU handed the Knights their only loss.
An offense that ranked second in yards and fifth in scoring in 2019 could give Georgia Tech fits. Dillon Gabriel is back under center after a brilliant freshman year, and he should be joined in the backfield by the duo of Otis Anderson and Greg McRae. The receiving corps returns Tre Nixon and Marlon Williams, plus transfer Jacob Harris from Western Kentucky.
Tech Upset Wrecks Seminoles’ Home Opener
Coming off a 3-9 season and picked to be part of the dregs in the ACC, the Yellow Jackets surprised Florida State in Tallahassee last Saturday by a 16-13 count. The Seminoles were giving up 13 at Bookmaker, as they seemed to be on their way to the win and cover by taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Georgia Tech’s defense stiffened and forced three turnovers, while the offense did just enough to rally for the triumph.
A lot of the struggles from a year ago were the result of new head coach Geoff Collins transitioning the Yellow Jackets away from the triple-option into a higher-tempo offense. True freshman Jeff Sims emerged from summer camp as the starter quarterback and had a nice career debut by completing 24 of his 35 aerials for 277 yards, while also leading the team with 64 yards rushing on 13 carries. Sims was picked off twice in the first half but regrouped and directed a pair of long drives in the second half to lead his team back.
Georgia Tech defenders also regrouped and rose to the challenge, after the Seminoles scored on their first two drives. They sacked FSU quarterback James Blackman three times and also forced the junior to fumble twice. Linebackers Quez Jackson and David Curry were disruptive all afternoon and keyed stops on the Seminoles’ final two drives.
Teams Collide For First Time Since 2000
The schools are meeting on the gridiron for just the fourth time, and for their first matchup since 2000. Another matchup between the two teams was scheduled to be played in Orlando three years ago, but it was canceled due to Hurricane Irma and never made up. Georgia Tech has won all three of the previous clashes, all of them taking place in Atlanta.
Another storm is going to mess with the teams as they practice during the week. But the weatherman is sure Hurricane Sally will push through and leave mostly sunny skies for Saturday with the thermometer reading around 72° for kickoff.
Last week’s total in the Tech-FSU contest was way too high, falling almost three touchdowns short of the 49-point target. I’m expecting the Yellow Jackets’ defense to once again show up and hold UCF’s offense down, while the offense does just enough to grab the cover for my NCAA football pick.