Five storylines: Central Florida


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Looking at Ohio State's opponent as the two programs prepare for a showdown at the Horseshoe on Saturday.

1. Prove it: Central Florida might not be on the major-conference guest list, but it has a defense that might trick a bouncer into letting it behind the velvet rope.

After Ohio State warmed up the offense a week ago, the Knights might give the new spread attack a much tougher test.

Granted, UCF doesn’t play the same level of competition every week, but finishing in the top 10 nationally in total defense is no easy feat regardless of the league it comes from. There is talent in the trenches with a pair of beefy tackles and two skilled pass-rushing ends outside of them, and that’s where the bid for the Knights to prove they can play at a higher level will start.

2. Next man up: A strong performance to start the season may have come at a price for Latavius Murray -- one he might have to pay on Saturday.

The starting running back will likely be on the shelf after injuring his shoulder in a 108-yard outing against Akron, though that could be a position where the Knights are prepared to absorb the blow.

University of Miami transfer Storm Johnson found the end zone twice in his first game with UCF and is in line for the start with Murray out, and senior Brynn Harvey with his 2,215 career yards is also in reserve.

3. Keep it clean: At times Blake Bortles was holding on to the football too long in the pocket. At others, the Knights were missing assignments in protection that led to a few hits on their first-time starter at quarterback.

That won’t be a good combination against Ohio State, which boasts one of the most aggressive and talented defensive lines in the country. It also doesn’t help that the Buckeyes were largely frustrated up front a week ago by a spread quarterback whose quick release kept them from having the type of physical impact they’d like.

Bortles will have his early development tested in a hurry on the road against a relentless pass rush.

4. Open it up: The Knights didn’t need much offensive diversity to overpower Akron and rack up 56 points.

The formula for the Buckeyes was almost identical, so both offenses figure to open up the playbook a bit more heading into the second week of the season.

For UCF, that likely means a bit more spread-style quarterback rushes with the athletic, solidly built Bortles. Ohio State is gearing up for that approach anyway, and it will need to be fundamentally sound when it takes on the 6-foot-4, 221-pounder and tries to take him to the ground.

5. Big test: At least on defense, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer compared the Knights to a “Big Ten outfit.”

It might share some similarities now on that side of the ball now, but historically UCF has come up short when its battled programs that are full-fledged members of the conference.

The Knights have played four Big Ten schools in the past, but after six total meetings with Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, they’re still looking for their first win.