UCF Football Seeks Upset Over Former QB Dillon Gabriel, No. 6 Oklahoma - 3 Things to Watch
UCF faces former starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel and No. 6 Oklahoma in its first-ever meeting with the Sooners.
UCF embarks on the second half of its inaugural Big 12 season this Saturday, facing its toughest challenge yet and a highly anticipated reunion with its former starting quarterback. The Knights, with a record of 3-3 overall and 0-3 in conference play, will travel to face the No. 6 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, who are undefeated at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Both teams are coming off bye weeks, making this matchup even more intriguing. This will be the first-ever meeting between UCF and Oklahoma, and potentially the only one for the foreseeable future as the Sooners are set to join the SEC next year.
Dillon Gabriel, who was UCF's starting quarterback for parts of three seasons, has been instrumental in Oklahoma's success this season. In a game against Texas two weeks ago, Gabriel threw a late, go-ahead touchdown pass that put the Sooners in control of the Big 12 race. He is currently ranked second among Heisman Trophy favorites, trailing only Michael Penix Jr. of undefeated Washington. Gabriel's skill set and experience have impressed UCF head coach Gus Malzahn, who coached Gabriel for three games before he suffered a season-ending injury. Malzahn praises Gabriel's command of the game and his ability to make smart decisions under pressure.
Oklahoma boasts one of the most explosive offenses in college football, averaging 45.2 points per game. Gabriel has been a key contributor to this high-scoring offense, completing 72.3% of his passes for 1,878 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. Gabriel himself is excited for the opportunity to face his former team, expressing gratitude for the chance to play alongside his new teammates.
On the UCF side, the team will have its starting quarterback, John Rhys Plumlee, back in action after recovering from an injury. Plumlee, a fifth-year senior, has had a history of injuries during conference play in his two years at UCF. However, he feels confident in his progress and is thankful for the extra week of rest. Plumlee's availability is crucial for UCF, but the return of Ricky Barber on defense is equally significant. Barber, a redshirt senior, has been playing through pain in recent games but is expected to make a full return. His presence will be a boost for UCF's struggling defense, particularly against the run game.
One area where Oklahoma has excelled is in creating turnovers. The Sooners have recorded 12 interceptions so far this season, tied for second in the nation. This poses a challenge for UCF's passing game, which has shown improvement in accuracy. UCF's ability to establish a balanced offense will be key in keeping up with Oklahoma's high-powered offense.
In terms of recruiting, UCF has made strides in attracting top talent in its own backyard since Gus Malzahn took over as head coach. However, Oklahoma managed to secure commitments from two highly regarded prospects from the central Florida area. Linebacker Danny Stutsman, from Windermere, has been named to multiple midseason All-America lists and leads the Big 12 in tackles per game. Wide receiver Jayden Gibson, from Winter Garden, could see an increased role with Andrel Anthony out for the season due to injury.
Overall, this matchup between UCF and Oklahoma promises to be an exciting and highly competitive game. UCF will look to make a statement in the Big 12 and prove that they can compete with some of the nation's top teams. Oklahoma, on the other hand, aims to maintain its undefeated record and solidify its position as a top contender in the conference. Both teams have talented quarterbacks leading their respective offenses and will rely on their playmakers to make big plays. The outcome of this game could have significant implications for both teams' seasons moving forward.