ORLANDO (CBSMiami) – The University of Central Florida is about to step up in competition big time Saturday when they travel to the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio to face Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes.
UCF has no hope of a bowl after being banned by the NCAA prior to the regular season starting. The Golden Knights are also down some players as they head to the 'Shoe looking for their first victory as a Football Bowl Subdivision team over a ranked, nonconference opponent.
"I like playing nonconference games against tradition schools like Ohio State that have a great, long history of winning (and) a great tradition as far as the program's concerned," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "But we go into every game with an opportunity to win it."
UCF opened the season last weekend with a 56-14 throttling of Akron at the Zips' home stadium. Ohio State opened at home and blew out Miami (Ohio) by a 56-10 score. Neither team was really challenged by two horribly overmatched opponents.
Before O'Leary arrived in 2004, the Knights had beaten just one BCS team, Alabama in 2004. The school earned its second win over a BCS team when they beat N.C. State and won the Conference USA championship.
O'Leary's team then followed that up in 2010 with an 11-win season, another C-USA title, and the school's first bowl victory over the SEC's Georgia Bulldogs. But, O'Leary said that true sustainability as a top-notch program will only come when the Knights win BCS nonconference games consistently.
"It's why you play in Division I football is to play in games like this," O'Leary said. "That's the challenge I'll pose to the team."
The last time UCF played a ranked, nonconference opponent was in 2009 when the Texas Longhorns pounded the Knights 35-3. The last time UCF played an Urban Meyer coached team was in 2006 when the Florida gators mauled the Knights 42-0.
Ohio State has won 58 consecutive regular season nonconference home games against teams not ranked in the top 25. The last loss was to a Bobby Bowden coached Florida State Seminoles team in 1982.
UCF will be playing without leading rusher Latavius Murray who will be out after bruising his shoulder in the win over Akron. In his place, redshirt sophomore Storm Johnson will likely get the bulk of the carries.
Las Vegas had the Knights as a 17.5 point underdog to the Buckeyes ahead of Saturday's game. UCF players are trying to downplay the game's importance, saying that all that they can do is control what they can before and during the game.
"I think players win big games," O'Leary said. "I think coaches try to get them in the right spots. But players have to make plays in big games. That's what it's all about. ... Our big players are going to have to play great and our players that are average are going to have to be good."
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