by: Alex Welch (@alex__welch)
The UCF Knights head back to Orlando, Fla. for their 2012 home opener against the Florida International (FIU) Panthers at Bright House Networks Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, with Bernie Guenther and Chuck Oliver calling the game from the booth for CSS.
After putting up a fight against Ohio State in their second road game of the year, the Knights will return to a more welcoming environment in the Florida sun. George O'Leary's squad blew out Akron in their season opener, and hung tough with the Buckeyes until the second half.
FIU booted a 41-yard field goal in overtime last weekend to slide past Akron in overtime after losing its first matchup of the season to Duke.
These two ballclubs met last year for the first time in history, with the Panthers taking the contest 17-10 at home. UCF will look to even the record this time around.
In last year's matchup the Knights finish with more total yards, time of possession and a greater third-down efficiency. Ten penalties and two turnovers against UCF, though, tilted the scale in the Panthers favor.
Both the Knights and Panthers entered 2012 as preseason favorites to win their respective conferences.
What to watch for:
Miami transfer Storm Johnson made his first-career start against Ohio State, and ran for an impressive 75 yards on just 12 carries. UCF has racked up 309 rushing yards in its first two games this season. FIU's defense, however, is allowing just 3.39 yards per carry in 2012. We'll see how the ground game fares for the Knights.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles set career highs with 25 completions, 41 attempts and 249 yards last week. He did throw three interceptions, but fortunately for Bortles, the hostile Columbus crowd will not be breathing down his neck this weekend.
Linebacker Terrance Plummer is coming off of a monster performance, totaling 15 tackles against the Scarlet and Gray.
The Knights are 14-16 against schools from Florida, and 16-12 overall versus the Sun Belt conference.
UCF only holds three losses at home in the past three seasons.
The Knights also haven't dropped a home opener since 2007 when they lost to Texas by just a field goal.
FIU's Justin Medlock accounted for 717 of 954 total yards in the Panthers first two games. The sophomore leader on offense will be the third dual-threat quarterback UCF has faced in 2012.
Which Kedrick Rhodes will show up? The Panthers junior running back, who entered 2012 on the Doak Walker watch list, dominated the Blue Devils in Week 1, racking up 130 rushing yards and 115 receiving yards with two touchdowns total. But, his limited workload accumulated just 57 total yards against Akron last week. How will FIU use him in Week 3? Rhodes needs just 47 rushing yards to move into third place on the Panthers all-time rushing list.
Will Tourek Williams show up? The senior defensive end sits third all-time in total sacks and tackles for losses for FIU. Williams recorded three tackles in each of his first two games, but hasn't the kind of impact you would expect from the preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.
The Panthers turned the ball over four times in their previous two games, all coming off of fumbles.
Senior Jack Griffin handled the punting duties in the Panthers last game along with his standard place kicking duties. Griffin, a 2011 Lou Groza Award semifinalist, started his 2012 campaign by missing his first three field goals, only to settle down and kick the Panthers to an overtime victory over the Zips.