Old rivals Tulsa, UCF meet for first time as AAC members

After their 11-game AAC win streak was snapped two weeks ago at Connecticut, the UCF Knights don't want to give away a game to Tulsa.

John Raoux/AP

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — When UCF and Tulsa have met in the past, it’s typically been with a conference championship at stake.

Of their seven previous matchups — when both were members of Conference USA — three were in the C-USA title game.

The stakes won’t be that high in Friday night’s American Athletic Conference meeting. While the Knights (5-3, 3-1) are fighting to stay in the AAC title race, the Golden Hurricane (2-7, 2-3) are out of contention after stopping a seven-game losing streak last week.

But for a group of Knights’ seniors that have never beaten Tulsa, it’s all the incentive they need.

"For sure, that’s the one team that whenever I’ve been in conference that I’ve never beaten was Tulsa," senior linebacker Terrance Plummer said. "That really weighs on your as a player. Somebody that’s won conference championships and won division championships, and you got one team that you could never beat.

"So this year is our opportunity to finally go out there and get that win as a senior class that we’ve never had before."

In all the Knights have lost four straight games to Tulsa, including a pair of games in Oklahoma in 2012 in which UCF lost in the regular season and then again in overtime in the C-USA title game.

"Tulsa probably has the most tradition of anybody in the conference," UCF coach George O’Leary said. "We haven’t beaten them in four games. That’s basically something that I discussed with the kids this week, and it’s something that we’ve got to get done. You’d like to see (the seniors) get that off their record before they graduate."

This is the second of three weeks in a row that Tulsa will be getting a conference opponent coming off a bye week. It worked out well last week as the Golden Hurricane was able to outlast winless SMU.

But that was against the league’s worst offense and defense. Coach Bill Blankenship knows his team faces a much bigger task against the Knights.

"When we watch them on film, they just don’t make lots of mistakes," he said. "The mistakes they’re making right now is more turning the ball over and things like that, which I’m sure is driving (O’Leary) crazy. But in terms of the defense they put on the field, and the offense — they traditionally don’t beat themselves."

Here are some things to watch in Friday night’s matchup between Tulsa and UCF:

CONFERENCE IMPLICATIONS: After their 11-game AAC win streak was snapped two weeks ago at Connecticut, the Knights don’t want to give away a game to Tulsa. UCF entered the week as one of four teams tied atop the AAC standings, all with one conference loss apiece.

A MATURING QB: Despite its struggles this season, Tulsa’s offense ranks third in the AAC, producing 438 yards of offense per outing. A big reason is sophomore QB Dane Evans, who ranks second in the league in passing yards per game (286.2), touchdowns thrown (19) and total offense (282.7 yards per game). Over the most recent four-game stretch he’s thrown for 1,209 yards and 10 touchdowns.

FASTER STARTS: After going scoreless in the first five games of the season, Tulsa has scored a total of 45 points in the first quarter in its last four games. By comparison, UCF has totaled 34 first quarter points in its last four outings.

PICKING IT UP: Following a slow start, UCF RB William Stanback has found a groove, rushing for 234 yards and four touchdowns over the past two games.

SURE HANDS: Tulsa sophomore WR Keevan Lewis surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season against SMU last week and is Tulsa’s first 1,000-yard receiver since the 2009 season.