For its final act of what’s been a wildly different 2020 football season, BYU will be facing a well-recognized Group of Five opponent when the Cougars take on UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 22.

It’s the third meeting between the Cougars and Knights, with the last one coming in 2014, when Central Florida beat BYU 31-24 in Orlando. The Cougars won the first-ever meeting in 2011, 24-17 in Provo.

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But what about UCF this year? What challenges will the Knights present?

Snapshot of the Knights

UCF is a member of the American Athletic Conference, and is famously known for crowning itself national champions after the Knights went undefeated in 2017 but were left out of the College Football Playoff.

The Knights are 6-3 this season, with one win over a Power Five program — 49-21 over Georgia Tech of the ACC — and a 5-3 mark in league play.   

UCF, which last played Nov. 27, is averaging 44.3 points per game this season, which is sixth nationally and just above BYU at 43 ppg.

Marquee wins

In addition to the victory over the 3-7 Yellow Jackets, the Knights’ top victories this year came in back-to-back weeks, when UCF beat Tulane (6-5) on Oct. 24 and Houston (3-4) the next week. UCF’s margin of victory in its six wins was 21.3 points.

Close losses

UCF is more defined by its three losses this year, all against the three teams sitting above them in the AAC standings. The Knights lost by eight to No. 24 Tulsa, one to Memphis and three against No. 8 Cincinnati, which currently is positioned to earn the Group of Five’s automatic bid to the College Football Playoff. 

UCF’s stars

The Knights, like the Cougars with Zach Wilson, are defined by their star quarterback Dillon Gabriel. He has thrown for 3,353 yards, 30 touchdowns and four interceptions this year, and his average of 372.5 passing yards per game leads the country. 

Running back Greg McRae has rushed for 693 yards and nine touchdowns, and wide receiver Marlon Williams is the main benefactor of Gabriel’s passing, with 1,039 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Knights are led by safety Richie Grant, who does a lot of things for UCF with 72 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, six pass deflections, one sack, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Eriq Gilyard has 57 tackles, a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  

Challenges they present

Offensively, the Knights are going to be a handful. UCF is second nationally in total offense (585.6 yards per game), while the Cougars are 10th (510.1 ypg). The competition between two star quarterbacks in Gabriel and Wilson (3,267 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, three interceptions) will be one of the game’s top storylines.

Defensively, the Cougars have the edge. BYU is 10th nationally in total defense (308.9 ypg), while UCF is 117th, allowing opponents nearly 500 yards per contest, at 473.7. The Knights are opportunistic defensively, though, and tie for second in the nation in turnovers gained, at 22 (13 fumble recoveries and nine interceptions).