Another marquee, unique matchup for AAC
By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector
Monday, November 12, 2018
It remains to be seen whether or not the premier team in the American Athletic Conference will again be undefeated and knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff at season’s end, but Central Florida already is very much in the public eye of college football.
Everything will be on the line in prime time on Saturday when the 9-0 Knights host fellow East Division heavyweight Cincinnati (9-1, 5-1).
For the first time, the sport’s biggest traveling roadshow is coming to the their town, as ESPN’s College Game Day is headed to Orlando for the 8 p.m. showdown.
“They understand the opportunity we have this Saturday, but I think they also understand that all that matters is how we prepare each and every day this week, and that will take us to kickoff,” first-year UCF head coach Josh Heupel said during Monday’s weekly AAC coaches teleconference of his team, which scored a tight 35-24 victory last Saturday over struggling Navy.
Heupel said that while the hype surrounding his team is what the Knights strive for, he knows his players will have to block it out as much as possible this week.
Coming to town for the festivities is arguably the hottest other team in the American, as the Bearcats are fresh from upending suddenly struggling South Florida, dealing the Bulls their third straight loss after a 7-0 start.
On the line for Cincy and second-year coach Luke Fickell is the chance to throw a wrench into the works of the conference and forge a tie in the East Division with the Knights. Doing that would mean becoming the first team since 2016 to beat UCF.
“It’s the first time a lot of these guys have been on a stage like this, and we’ve got to be able to control our emotions again and handle the situation, the scene, and what it’s all about is getting to game time and 8 o’clock and being at our best, not throughout all the other hype stuff that’s going to be done throughout this entire week,” Fickell said.
A battle of AAC basement dwellers is on tap in Greenville this week when Connecticut travels to East Carolina with both teams still in search of their first conference win.
There is little doubt that each of the teams will think this game is its best chance to get that win and might have been eyeing this contest, but UConn head coach Randy Edsall said his Huskies (1-9, 0-6) are in no position to look past any team on the schedule to get to another one.
In fact, he laughed aloud when asked if that was a possibility.
“We’re not good enough to look ahead,” Edsall said. “We’re good enough to try and get better each and every day, and that’s all we do. This week just happens to be we have East Carolina, and we’ll prepare the best we can and go down there and try to get a win. ... We never try to look ahead or anything along those lines. That’s for fans to do and for media to do.”
Contact Nathan Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.