UCF Knights kick off season on Thursday

Knights take on Akron Zips for home opener

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The UCF Knights will help ring in the football season by taking on the Akron Zips at home on Thursday night.

Coach George O'Leary's Knights are led by returning junior quarterback Blake Bortles. The Oviedo native finished the 2012 campaign with 4017 passing yards and 31 touchdowns, leading the Knights to a 10-4 record.

The Knights will turn to running backs Storm Johnson and Cedric Thompson in the backfield with the exit of Latavius Murray.

The team comes into Thursday night's game as 21 point favorites. However, team leaders say they're concerned with Akron's fast-paced, no huddle attack.

"You want to basically get them off in three (downs) and hold on to the ball on them," coach O'Leary told the Associated Press.

"[Akron] is a new team," Bortles told the Associated Press. "So just basing things off last year's film and trying to prepare that way is definitely a challenge."

The Knights lose several key defensive veterans, including Conference USA defensive player of the year Kemal Ishmael and cornerback A.J. Bouye. The team returns only eight seniors, the second-smallest senior class behind South Carolina.

Kickoff at Brighthouse Networks Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday.

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