Temple looms as tougher task for No. 12 UCF

No. 12 UCF might not be happy with its first ranking in the College Football Playoff standings, but at least the undefeated Knights will have an opportunity Thursday night to make up for one of the deficiencies that led to them falling behind twice-beaten Florida in the initial release.

The Knights (7-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) will take on their first opponent with a winning record when they host Temple (5-3, 4-0 AAC) in Orlando’s Spectrum Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Selection committee chairman Rob Mullens pointed out on ESPN’s announcement show that the key factor was that the Knights are the only team in the country that has yet to play an opponent that currently has a winning record.

Milton a game-time decision

Knights coach Josh Heupel, though, has more immediate concerns. He said this week that quarterback McKenzie Milton, who has led the Knights for all but one game of their 20-game winning streak, will be a game-time decision against the Owls due to an undisclosed injury.

“KZ is day-to-day at this point,” Heupel said.

Milton did not play in the Knights’ last outing Oct. 20 at East Carolina. In his place, redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. made his first career start, and after a shaky start, finished with a game-high 120 yards rushing and 69 passing with 12 completions in 20 attempts.

“Darriel did a fantastic job,” Heupel said. “Managed the game well. Took care of the football the entire night. Didn’t have huge passing numbers as far as yards but was really efficient and was really on target with some of our deep balls that we ended up not catching or not making the play on.

“I thought he was a great decision-maker.”

The Knights trailed at the end of the first quarter for just the second time this season but quickly overcame the 3-0 deficit and led 20-3 at the half on their way to a 37-10 victory.

With Milton still sidelined, Mack took all the snaps in UCF’s two practice sessions in the off week.

Owls also banged up

The Owls, who already knocked off one unbeaten AAC team, Cincinnati, in their last outing, have injury issues of their own. Leading rusher Ryquell Armstead (626 yards in six games) also is a game-time decision because of an ankle injury.

However, Temple coach Geoff Collins has no concern at quarterback. Anthony Russo took the Owls 75 yards to the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, then completed a third-and-10 pass for a touchdown in overtime for a 24-17 win.

Collins cited the toughness Russo demonstrated through grueling offseason workouts as paying off.

“Anthony Russo is one of those guys who doesn’t just survive those workouts,” Collins said, “but attacks them.”

–Field Level Media

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