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Published September 12, 2015
UCF and UConn are heading in different directions as they meet Saturday at Rentschler Field.
The Knights (5-2, 3-0 American) have won five in a row after opening with two losses and are looking to break into the Top 25, while the Huskies (1-6, 0-4) will be trying to avoid a six-game losing streak.
UCF hasn't lost a conference game (11-0) since moving from Conference USA to the new league a year ago.
"It's been a great move for us mainly because of the TV exposure that you are getting," said UCF coach George O'Leary. "I don't think you could buy that marketing. There is no question UCF is known throughout the nation now as far as some of the things we're doing."
Some of those things include holding opponents to just over 305 yards and 19 points a game with the 10th-rated defense in the nation.
"You set a standard of where you want to be as a team as a defense and you just keep striving and keep working to get to that standard," said Troy Gray,
UConn, meanwhile, is averaging just 276 yards of offense and 14 points a game.
First-year coach Bob Diaco has been giving his younger players a lot of playing time. Thirty players on the Huskies' two-deep are either freshmen or sophomores.
The Huskies lost senior cornerback Byron Jones, a team captain, to a season-ending shoulder injury last week, and Diaco said as a result he's going to have to "limit the menu" for the defense.
Here are some things to watch for as the Huskies host UCF on Saturday:
HONORING JAZZ: UConn will unveil a monument to former cornerback Jasper "Jazz" Howard at halftime. Howard was stabbed to death in October 2009 during a fight after a dance outside the student center. Almost nobody in the current program was at UConn five years ago, but Diaco said the tragedy still holds lessons for his team "on being in places and with people and around people and completely aware of your circumstances, and that things can escalate and really turn bad."
He said the team will treat the event as a celebration of Howard's life and of a team that rallied. The Huskies lost three straight games following the tragedy, but won their last four, including an emotional 33-30 double-overtime victory at Notre Dame and a 20-7 win over South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
COLD-WEATHER GAME: This will be the farthest north UCF has played (not counting the season-opening game in Ireland) since the Knights visited Buffalo in 2010. The weather is expected to be wet, with temperatures in the 40s. Coach George O'Leary says he's most concerned about the players keeping their hands warm.
"Any time you leave the South you get concerned about weather and how the kids handle that stuff, but that's part of the game, you've got to be able to deal with it," he said.
CAPTAINS: UCF has an unusual tradition of selecting its captains in midseason. That vote took place this week and linebacker Terrance Plummer, safety Clayton Geathers and receiver Josh Reese were selected. Plummer and Geathers are the top two tacklers on the team. Reese has five receptions this season for 97 yards and a touchdown.
HOME AGAIN: UConn is playing its first home game since a 36-10 loss to Temple on Sept. 27. The Huskies are 1-3 at Rentschler Field this year. UCF is coming off a 34-14 win at home over Temple a week ago. The Knights are 1-2 away from home this season.
LONG BALL: UCF junior receiver Breshad Perriman has four touchdown catches this year and all of them went for more than 40 yards. He comes into the game with 24 catches for 544 yards, an average of 22.7 yards per catch. He will face a secondary that likely will start a freshman, two sophomores and a junior.