South Carolina-UCF Preview
South Carolina would like to put an end to the run of firsts Central Florida has accomplished this year when it visits the Knights for the first time Saturday.
The No. 12 Gamecocks look to prevent UCF from achieving another milestone when they go for their fourth win in as many meetings.
UCF (3-0) stunned Penn State 34-31 in Happy Valley on Sept. 14 for its first win over a Big Ten opponent. The Knights, who have beaten SEC schools on two occasions, will now try to end their drought against South Carolina (2-1).
"A lot of them down there say this might be the biggest game they have ever had in the history of the school," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "Got an opportunity, if they win, to obviously, jump in the Top 25 and have a chance to maybe beat everybody on their schedule, they are that good of a team. So, it's a huge game for all of us."
Spurrier should remember the last time the schools met, as it marked his return to college coaching Sept. 1, 2005. South Carolina made a stop on fourth down at its 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter to hang on for a 24-15 victory.
After a bye, South Carolina will be looking for a better effort than it put together in a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 14. The Gamecocks scored on their first four possessions for a 28-0 lead but allowed the Commodores to get within 10 on a pair of fourth-quarter scores in a 13-second span.
Still, their 579 yards of offense was their second-highest output since Spurrier took over.
"This might've been the best we've looked on offense since I've been here, in the first quarter anyways and then it started slowing down a little,'' Spurrier said. "But we'll learn from it and try and see what kind of team we're going to be this year.''
UCF already has some benchmarks to measure itself by in 2013.
The Knights are 3-0 for the first time since 1988 and fourth time in school history, and they've scored at least 30 points in the first three games of a season for the first time. Their 34 points were the most scored by a non-conference team at Penn State since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.
The stakes are even higher Saturday in a nationally televised game.
"We're going to have to go out and play well on all sides of the ball - offense, defense and special teams," coach George O'Leary told the school's official website. "I think it's like any national game anybody is playing. If you win the game you get great exposure and national attention."
The school has announced that this will be the first sellout at UCF since Sept. 10, 2011, a 30-3 win over Boston College. The last ranked team to visit also faired poorly as the Knights knocked off then-No. 13 Houston 37-32 on Nov. 14, 2009.
The crowd will get to see one of the nation's most high-profile players in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who has been playing through right foot pain due to bone spurs. The bye week, however, may help refresh him and allow him to start regaining his dominant form, as he has only two sacks after posting 13 last season.
Storm Johnson had career-high 117 of UCF's 219 rushing yards to pace a 507-yard day of offense against the Lions. The Gamecocks' rushing attack, however, has been even more formidable, as they're averaging nearly 225 yards on the ground.
South Carolina is putting up 479.7 total yards a contest after Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson passed for a combined 359 against Vanderbilt.
Shaw, who has not thrown an interception in 74 attempts this season, also ran for 84 yards on 19 carries in that contest.
The Gamecocks have won 17 straight against non-conference opponents.
UCF will be without linebacker Willie Mitchell, who was suspended indefinitely following his arrest for driving under the influence earlier this month. Mitchell started the Knights' first two games this season and has eight tackles, including six solo.