ORLANDO — UCF's win Sept. 14 at Penn State introduced the Knights to the rest of the college football world as a legitimate team.
The Knights (3-0) aim to make another statement about their power and potential today at noon when they host No. 12 South Carolina (2-1). With a national television audience on ABC and a sold-out Bright House Networks Stadium, UCF has a unique opportunity to claim a victory that could transform the program in both the short- and long-term.
The Knights need their best effort. The win at Penn State nearly fell apart during the second half, with UCF holding off a late rally.
UCF must find a way to slow the Gamecocks' rushing attack, which has racked up 224.7 yards per game. On the other side, an offensive line that did not give up a sack against the Nittany Lions will again be charged with keeping quarterback Blake Bortles protected against one of the top defensive lines in the country.
The Knights' ability to hold their own on the line of scrimmage could have a big impact on the game, especially with UCF looking to contain players such as All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
UCF players will look to shock millions of people watching them play, many for the first time.
"I think it's huge," Bortles said. "You can say it's just the fourth game of the year, but I think everybody realizes that it's a big game."
The buzz for this sold-out game started to build Monday when UCF students lined up to try to buy tickets.
During the next few days, the excitement on campus only increased. From "Beat South Carolina" stickers and buttons being passed out in the student union, to "hype" videos introduced by the school's marketing teams. Some fans organized an overnight camp-out near Bright House Stadium. Others focused on generating momentum behind a "Gold Rush" for the game, asking fans to wear their gold UCF gear.
There was no walking around campus without catching some whiff of UCF versus South Carolina fever.
"I think it's the first time they've been on ABC — network TV, they call it — instead of cable," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "And they're the national TV game of the week, I think, high noon. So we know we're going to get their best shot.
"They've got a sellout crowd, and I think we got a bunch of Gamecocks going down there. … But it's a huge game, a big game for us, a big game for Central Florida. We're looking forward to it just like they are."
No break for USC: The NCAA turned down Southern California's request for possible relief from the sanctions that have been imposed on the program since 2010. Athletic director Pat Haden had said USC felt compelled to discuss the sanctions after the NCAA's recent decision to lessen the scholarship reductions that Penn State was hit with after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham released a statement Friday saying there is no comparison between the USC and Penn State cases. She said USC's case was heard before the Committee on Infractions and was appealed.
BYU: The team's leading receiver, Cody Hoffman, sat out late Friday's game against Middle Tennessee State after being suspended for violating a team rule. Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall didn't provide details in announcing a one-game suspension.
Baylor: Defensive back Ahmad Dixon has been arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor assault. Waco, Texas, police say Dixon attacked a 21-year-old man last week at an apartment building. Police say Dixon accused the man of breaking into his apartment months earlier, and when the man laughingly denied the allegation, Dixon punched him several times in the face.
Basketball: Purdue sophomore forward Donnie Hale decided to transfer to find more playing time, coach Matt Painter said. … Clemson freshman guard Patrick Rooks will miss the season after injuring his hip. … Michigan sophomore forward Mitch McGary, who averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds a game during the Wolverines' run to the national title game last season, is limited in practice with a lower back issue.