UCF / Akron Preview:

The UCF Knights are just hours away from the start of the 2013 football season.

They will begin the year with a matchup against the Akron Zips Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Bright House Stadium.

Junior quarterback Blake Bortles made his first career start in last season’s opener against Akron. The Knights went on to a 56-14 win behind Bortles’ 168 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Bortles, now a leader on the offense, has what head coach George O’Leary refers to as possibly the best group of wide receivers he’s coached at UCF.

The offense returns nearly all starters from last season, minus the key departures of running back Latavius Murray, and center Jordan Rae.

Akron currently holds a 5-3 all-time record against UCF, with three of those games coming when both teams were in the Mid-American Conference.

Here are some game day notes provided by UCF Athletics:

• The Knights also are entering their 18th year at the FBS level, and the first as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
• In season openers, UCF carries a 22-12 overall record, and it has won its last seven.
• The Aug. 29 opener ties for the earliest start to a season in school history. The Knights defeated William & Mary on Thursday, Aug. 29, 1996, which was their first game as an FBS member.
• This will be the fifth time the Black and Gold begins a season on a Thursday (1995, 1996, 2005, 2012), and the ninth time since the program’s inception in 1979 that it opens a new campaign on a day other than a Saturday.
• UCF has a 5-3 record in the month of August.
• For the second straight season, UCF and Akron are kicking off a new campaign on a Thursday evening. Last year, the Knights took down the Zips in Ohio, 56-14.
• The 2012 meeting was the first since 2004 when the two programs were members of the MAC.
• In its first year under head coach Terry Bowden, Akron finished with a 1-11 record, falling by 12 points or less in its final three contests.
• The Zips have seven starters returning on both offense and defense, however the only quarterback on the roster with game experience is sophomore Kyle Pohl, who went 38-for-58 as a backup in 2012.
• Junior running back Jawon Chisholm amassed 953 rushing yards and five touchdowns a year ago.
• On defense, Akron lost two starting linebackers as well as last season’s leading sack artist, J.D. Griggs (six).