(Photo by Adrian J. Hernandez / New Day Review)
ORLANDO, Fla. – In just five short weeks since the beginning of the 2017 season, the University of Central Florida has already had its share of obstacles. From having two games canceled because of a hurricane to becoming a nationally ranked team after just three games, the Knights have had one of their most unique starts to a season. However, there is something the Knights will do for the first time this season when they travel to Ohio to face the Cincinnati Bearcats: play an American Athletic Conference game on the road.
No. 25 UCF (3-0, 1-0 in AAC) will play its second road game of the season against Cincinnati (2-3, 0-1 in AAC) for a Week 6 matchup. While Cincinnati has struggled this season, second-year Knights head coach Scott Frost is not taking the Bearcats or their environment lightly.
“[Cincinnati] is gonna be a challenge,” Frost said at his team’s game-week presser on Oct. 2. “We’re going up to that place. Not an easy place to play—night game. We’re gonna have to earn this one. They’re sound in everything they do, so they’re not gonna give you a lot of freebies. We’re gonna have to earn everything we get on both sides of the ball. Our preparation’s gonna lead to success.”
Not only will this be UCF’s first conference road game, but it will be Cincinnati’s first home-conference game as well. The Bearcats are so far 1-1 at home, earning a season-opening, 26-14 win over Austin Peay State University and a 21-17 victory over Miami University in Week 3. UCF boasts a 1-0 record on the road in 2017, besting the Big Ten Conference’s University of Maryland 38-10 in Week 4.
“You’re going up, probably, against one of the better crowds in our league,” UCF running-backs coach Ryan Held said after practice on Oct. 3. “It’s gonna be packed. It’s gonna be an 8 o’clock game. And, for them, their mindset is, “Hey, we beat UCF, [and] we’re right back in this deal.”
It’s not just coaches who are expecting a loud crowd in Cincinnati, as sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton is, too. Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium can host up to 40,000 fans.
“Well, I mean, yeah, any time you go on the road, especially Cincinnati, [there’s a hostile environment],” Milton said after practice on Oct. 3. “I remember watching them a few years back. They were ranked in, like, the top 10, and they came down to Hawaii, and they’re a good ball club. Historically, they got a lot of athletes, and I don’t know what the weather’s gonna be like. Like [Held] said, it’s the Midwest, so you never know. And they’re a good ball club, so we gotta be on our game.”
This will be the Knights first game as a ranked team since the 2013 season. The team, however, is not letting its ranking get in the way of its preparation for this road test.
“We’re not content yet,” redshirt senior tight end Michael Colubaile said at the team’s game-week presser on Oct. 2. And we’re focused on one game at a time, so our record is 0-0 right now. We’re just mainly focused on Cincinnati, and we’re trying to stay out of the press readings.”
Kickoff between the Knights and Cincinnati is at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
For more on the Knights, as they prepare to travel to Cincinnati for a Week 6 matchup, follow Ryan Weiss on Twitter at @NDR_RyanWeiss.