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Why UCF-Boise State is the state’s most interesting Week 1 matchup

Also, Willie Taggart is set to make history Saturday at The Swamp in a way you won’t expect.
Gus Malzahn's UCF debut helps make the Boise State matchup the state's most interesting game this weekend.
Gus Malzahn's UCF debut helps make the Boise State matchup the state's most interesting game this weekend. [ Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Sep. 1

Florida’s most interesting game of the weekend isn’t USF coach Jeff Scott’s Year 2 debut at North Carolina State, Willie Taggart making history in Gainesville or the two big-name matchups (Miami-Alabama and Florida State-Notre Dame).

It’s Boise State at UCF Thursday night.

The Bounce House should be the closest thing to a normal college football environment the state has seen since 2019. Former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will be making his Knights debut against the Broncos’ first-time head coach, Andy Avalos, in a matchup of two teams who could challenge for a spot in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game.

The possibility of conference realignment adds another wrinkle. The Big 12 isn’t going to base its expansion decisions on one non-conference result, of course. But two potential Big 12 targets playing each other in a prime-time, weekend-opening game creates another selling point for both programs.

And makes it the state’s most intriguing contest of Week 1.

Related: As Big 12 considers conference expansion, what about USF and UCF?

Willie Taggart’s state tour

Florida Atlantic's Willie Taggart is set to become (we think) Florida's first coach to coach in every current Division I-A stadium in the state.
Florida Atlantic's Willie Taggart is set to become (we think) Florida's first coach to coach in every current Division I-A stadium in the state. [ JIM RASSOL | Palm Beach Post ]

When the former USF and FSU coach brings Florida Atlantic into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Taggart will become the first head coach in Florida history to coach at every current Division I-A stadium in the state. His record at each one:

Raymond James Stadium: 14-14

Doak Campbell Stadium: 8-6

FAU Stadium: 5-0

FIU Stadium: 2-1

Bounce House (UCF): 1-1

Hard Rock Stadium: 0-1

Related: Gators’ Emory Jones ready to live up to hype from the pass that didn’t count

Marquee moment for Miami

Miami has struggled in its recent big games, like the ACC championship against Clemson. Staying competitive against Alabama, then, would be a sign of progress.
Miami has struggled in its recent big games, like the ACC championship against Clemson. Staying competitive against Alabama, then, would be a sign of progress. [ CHRIS URSO | Times (2017) ]

The Hurricanes have struggled in recent big games, like last year at Clemson (42-17), the 2018 neutral-site opener to LSU (33-17) or the ACC title game against Clemson (38-3). Miami shouldn’t be looking for moral victories, but realistically, staying competitive against ‘Bama would be a welcome sign of progress.

FSU QB: TBD

We still don't know whether Jordan Travis, pictured, or McKenzie Milton will start at quarterback for Florida State.
We still don't know whether Jordan Travis, pictured, or McKenzie Milton will start at quarterback for Florida State.

Mike Norvell hasn’t named a starting quarterback and wouldn’t answer whether his Seminoles will consider using multiple passers against Notre Dame. We’ll probably have to wait until Sunday night to see if Jordan Travis gets the first snaps or if UCF transfer McKenzie Milton continues his remarkable comeback by earning the starting job.

Eye on the NFL draft

Ikem Ekwonu is one of the country's top offensive linemen and a name NFL fans should get to know, if not pronounce.
Ikem Ekwonu is one of the country's top offensive linemen and a name NFL fans should get to know, if not pronounce. [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP (2019) ]

North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu has 87 pancake blocks and 22 knockdowns over 24 games. That’s enough to make him the top eligible guard in this draft and a player to watch against USF.

Tributes of note

Florida State will honor legendary coach Bobby Bowden with this banner, among other tributes.
Florida State will honor legendary coach Bobby Bowden with this banner, among other tributes. [ Courtesy of FSU Sports Information ]

The Gators will recognize the program’s first Black players, Leonard George (a Jesuit High alumnus) and Willie Jackson, by making them honorary captains. Florida State’s tributes to the late Bobby Bowden include adding his signature to the back of helmets and adding a Bobby logo to the field.

Related: Bobby Bowden’s last words to Derrick Brooks: Keep doing goodwill, and hug your babies

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