Quarterback intrigue surrounds both teams when Stanford plays at No. 17 UCF in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday afternoon.
K.J. Costello, the Cardinal's starting quarterback, is expected to return after missing last week's 45-20 road loss to Southern California. The senior had been sidelined after taking a hit to the head a week earlier in a 17-7 win over Northwestern in which he completed 16 of 20 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Head coach David Shaw said Tuesday that Costello was a "full go" for the game against the Knights, who have a quarterback situation of their own.
Brandon Wimbush, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, started and played well in a 62-0 season-opening victory against Florida A&M. But with Wimbush apparently injured -- coach Josh Heupel said he was not "medically cleared" -- true freshman Dillon Gabriel took over for last week's 48-14 victory at Florida Atlantic.
There's also Darriel Mack Jr., who last year became the starter after McKenzie Milton suffered a horrific knee injury. The redshirt sophomore began practicing last week and has been cleared to play after suffering a broken ankle during the offseason.
Who'll start vs. Stanford? The Knights released a depth chart this week listing Gabriel above Wimbush and labeled them as co-starters. Gabriel, a native Hawaiian, has completed 16 of 32 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for another in his first two college games. Wimbush threw for 168 yards and two TDs against Florida A&M.
"Anytime you're playing quarterback, the more reps you get, the more live snaps, it's going to help you continue to improve, for any of our quarterbacks," Heupel said.
Quarterbacks aside, the game is extremely meaningful for each team.
The Cardinal (1-1) seek to return to the Top 25 after falling out this week. The American Athletic Conference's Knights, whose schedule generally has been considered soft compared to other ranked teams, understand the need to defeat a nationally respected program.
"It's going to be an electric atmosphere. We sell that in recruiting," said Heupel, adding many recruits will attend the game.
Shaw was more concerned with the current Knights, who have scored 30 or more points in 28 consecutive games, the nation's longest streak in the AP poll era dating to 1936. They're also winners of 26 consecutive regular-season games and are averaging 634 yards offense this season.
"They're fast, they're very fast, and they're very confident." Shaw said. "You win a lot of games when you know what you're doing."
Some bad news for Stanford got worse on Tuesday, when Shaw announced that preseason All-American left tackle Walker Little will undergo season-ending surgery. The junior suffered a reported dislocated knee in the season opener.
Stanford and UCF have met one time previously -- a 31-7 Cardinal victory in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2015.
Stanford last played in the state of Florida in the 2011 Orange Bowl, when the Cardinal defeated Virginia Tech 40-12.