Tech will play its first home game of the season this week, facing off against the Knights from the University of Central Florida at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The game, which will be aired nationally at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday, is the second week in a row that Tech will be the underdog, with UCF coming to Midtown as 8.5-point favorites. It is also the first time head coach Geoff Collins will face his former school, having served as the linebackers coach there for two years.
Saturday’s game could very well turn into a quarterback battle as both teams will showcase their young talent under center. Jeff Sims, having taken the helm in an impressive debut for the Jackets last week against Florida State, will face off against Dillon Gabriel, who threw for 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in his first season. Gabriel is surrounded by a talented core of wide receivers, whose quick-paced offense has scored under 30 points in just one game since 2017.
The Jackets will face a stronger, more robust defense than last week, particularly on the defensive line. Where Tech faced a porous defensive line last week, the Knights’ front helped make them the third-best team in the nation last year in tackles for loss. With over 20 linemen in the roster, they are deep and talented on the front line. This will undoubtedly give them an advantage against Tech’s rebuilt offense which, while ultimately successful (Tech’s 437 yards of offense last week were more than any other game since 2018), also showed its inexperience on multiple occasions. With a stronger defensive line, look for Sims to make more use of the run this week, an area where he showed great potential against Florida State.
This week’s game will prove to be a test for Tech’s defense. Last week saw Tech’s defense step up and make several key stops, mostly notably stifling the Seminoles on back-to-back fourth downs deep in the fourth quarter.
UCF will be entering their season opener fresh off a highly successful season in 2019. The Knights have gone 35-4 over the past three seasons and are used to being in control of games. If the Jacket defense comes out with the same force they showed last week, they may have a chance at wearing down an offense that relies heavily on speed and quickness.
Controlling the clock could be something to watch this week. UCF, like Florida State, is known for its quickness of play. Staying on the field and controlling the clock will give Tech an advantage if the game comes down to the final minutes.
Special teams was the Jackets’ Achilles heel last week. Kicker Jude Kelley was blocked on three different field goals, an stat almost unheard-of in college football. Such a colossal failure would wreak havoc on any game plan this week, and the Jackets were fortunate to leave Tallahassee with the victory. After ranking last in FBS touchback percentage last year, Tech needs to secure its special teams if it intends to compete with a top 20 team this week.
Facing UCF is a test that could show whether the momentum gained from a surprise win in Week One is just a fluke or a sign for the season to come. Last year was undoubtedly a transition year, but the victory over FSU has given the team a confidence boost, and the Jackets have the opportunity to make a statement this week against a ranked team on national television. Doing so will require a coalescing of all the improvements Tech has made into a solid performance.