UCF is scoring at a 48.8 points-per-game pace that ranks seventh in the country among FBS teams, has averaged just a couple of ticks under 583 yards a game in total offense to rank No. 3, and has pummeled four opponents by an average winning margin of 32 points a game.
So what is first-year coach Josh Heupel looking for out of his 12th-ranked Knights (4-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) as they prepare for Saturday’s date with SMU?
More, of course. What else?
“There’s a lot left out there offensively,” he said two days after the 45-14 dismantling of Pittsburgh that was the Knights’ 17th consecutive win and 17th consecutive game with at least 30 points. “We can be way more efficient, more effective, but that’s true in all three phases.
“We’re four games into who-and-what we’re going to be. We have a lot of room for growth and development. Good teams do that throughout the year. Teams that go win championships get better every single week.”
That can’t be very comforting for the Mustangs (2-3, 1-0 AAC) under first-year coach Sonny Dykes.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando with ESPNU cameras catching the action.
“They’re obviously very good,” Dykes said. “I think McKenzie Milton is one of the top two or three quarterbacks in college football. You just look at his production and then you look at his record.
“I think those are the two things that you judge quarterbacks by, and look at their leadership. Really the three things.”
Milton holds numberous UCF records, starting with the 4,037 yards he passed for last year. That works out to an average of just over 310 yards a game. In 2018, he has passed for an average of just under 306 yards a game and rushed for just under 50 a game.
He has passed for 13 touchdowns, rushed for five.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Dykes said. “He can run the ball. He can throw the ball.”
Milton is not a one-man show.
Running back Adrian Killins has rushed for three scores and 233 yards and last week had two big receptions in the win over Pitt — a 71-yard catch and sprint for a touchdown and a 64-yarder to set up another touchdown.
Among wide receivers, Gabriel Davis has 24 catches for 322 yards and four touchdowns, Dredrick Snelson 15 for 197, and Tre Nixon 14 for 215.
“They have a lot of skill returning, a lot of speed,” Dykes said. “I think that’s the thing that stands out at you when you turn the film on, just how many guys that can really run. There’s just a lot of them.”
SMU has shown some scoring ability as well. The Mustangs are coming off a 63-27 victory over Houston Baptist that was their highest scoring output since a 72-42 win over Houston in 2012.
Quarterback William Brown was 8-of-13 passing for 271 yards while two receivers, Reggie Roberson Jr. (104 yards) and Tyler Page (102) topped the century mark in receiving yards.
“Athletic quarterback, dynamic playmakers on the outside,” Heupel said. “Wide receivers who are also great in the return game on special teams. It will be a big test for us on special teams.”
More impressive than the rout of the FCS team, however, was a 31-30 overtime win over Navy the week before.
“Any time you can win, and especially the way the Navy game played out, especially for a young football team to have to hang in there and battle through some things, I think it showed some mental toughness that we’re trying to build,” Dykes said. “We’re making progress. But Central Florida will be a different animal.”
One thing seems certain. The Knights will keep the pedal to the metal.
“Our best is still yet to come,” Milton said. “Like I said after the game, you always want to be better than yesterday. You may not always put up crazy numbers each game, but if you can improve in an area in practice and try to translate that to the game, I think that’s the main thing.”