Georgia Tech and No. 14 UCF were originally slated to begin this series back in 2017, but the game was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. Looking back, delaying the start to this series cost that undefeated Knights team a chance to prove itself against a Power Five opponent in a banner year for the program. On the flipside, the Yellow Jackets finished 5-6 and could have used the 12th game to try and reach bowl eligibility.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 19 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Bobby Dodd Stadium — Atlanta
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV
Now, three years later and amid a pandemic, the teams will finally begin their series as the No. 14 Knights open their 2020 campaign in Atlanta against a Yellow Jackets team fresh off a season-opening victory against Florida State.
Both teams are led by different coaches than they were in 2017, but their situations are not entirely different. Georgia Tech is expected to be scraping for every victory it can get while UCF is hoping to add a noteworthy victory to its resume before entering AAC play. Aside from the Louisville-Miami game, this one could end up as the day’s most-interesting contest as it should provide some insight into Georgia Tech’s legitimacy and UCF’s potency as an AAC contender.
Georgia Tech: Media picked Georgia Tech to finish last in the ACC this season, but the Yellow Jackets proved they could be much better than expected by going on the road and winning at Florida State last week. Freshman quarterback Jeff Sims threw a couple interceptions but otherwise looked like a budding star against the Seminoles in the first game of his college career. He’ll be tested again against a UCF defense that allowed just 199.5 yards through the air last season. He’ll surely get more help from the special teams unit this week after Georgia Tech had two field goals and an extra point blocked in Week 2. The Yellow Jackets will have to prove that their stingy defensive effort last week was because they’ve improved and not solely because of FSU’s offensive ineptitude.
UCF: The Big Ten’s return to the field will dampen the AAC’s chances of crashing the College Football Playoff this season. But there are still high expectations for UCF in the third year of Josh Heupel’s coaching tenure and little room for error out of the gate. If the Knights are going make noise on the national scene, they will need to capitalize on their lone nonconference opportunity. Beating Georgia Tech may not have seemed like a noteworthy feat before the season. But given its placement in a shallow week of game, this is now a showcase opportunity. Heupel’s squad joins Cincinnati and Memphis as the AAC favorites, but it’s the only one of the three with a game scheduled against a Power Five opponent. UCF is missing 10 players who have opted out, including two projected defensive starters. But the Knights return their most important piece in star sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel. He should pose a much tougher test than James Blackman.
Game prediction, picks
It would be tempting to look at UCF’s 10 opt-outs coupled with Georgia Tech’s season-opening win against FSU and take the Yellow Jackets straight up. But even in its three losses last season, UCF averaged 29.7 points. The Knights finished fifth nationally in scoring offense and return many of the keys from that potent attack, even after their wave of opt outs. Georgia Tech looked much-improved last week, but keeping up with such an explosive offense will be a tough order for Sims in his second career start. Pick: UCF (-7.5)