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UCF makes first football appearance as Big 12 Conference member

Mural at UCF Football facility
Photo by: Allison Varney
Mural at UCF Football facility

University of Central Florida Knights are preparing for one of the team’s biggest football games in its history as it takes on Kent State in its debut game in the Big 12 conference.

Two years ago, UCF announced it was joining the Big 12 — a Power Five conference school, meaning it joins one of the five most influential athletic conferences in the nation. UCF will enter the arena as the youngest Power 5 school in the country by about 30 years.

UCF joins the Big 12 alongside fellow newcomers Cincinnati, Houston, and BYU.

Leading the Knights is Head Coach Guz Malzahn, who is no stranger to a Power Five conference, leading Auburn University to a Southeastern Conference championship in 2014.

Malzahn's Knights take on Kent State, which is a team with a lot of unknown factors surrounding it.

“They have a lot of new faces, new transfers, new staff, new head coach, we’re curious to see how they handle all three phases,” Malzahn said.

Malzahn said John Rys Plumblee is returning under the helm of starting quarterback and Joining him is a wide group of talented players.

However, UCF will be making its debut with some unknown factors of its own, including a fair share of new players.

While the Knights play their first game on Thursday night, they won't make their first Big 12 game until Sept. 23 when UCF takes on fellow conference team, Kansas State — which won the 2022 Big 12 Conference title.

Additionally, the Big 12 preseason poll predictedUCF to place No. 8 out of the 14 teams in the conference. Kansas State was predicted to place No. 2. Despite this, Malzahn said the team is ready to show the nation it’s earned its spot despite many new faces.

"Really excited to watch our team. We have a lot of information through scrimmages, through practice, but there’s nothing like the first game. You learn about your team, especially when you have over 18 transfers and 20 freshmen and everything that goes along with it," Malzahn said.

The Knights take on Kent State at 7 p.m. at the UCF Bounce House.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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