The Central Florida (UCF) Knights will host the Florida International (FIU) Panthers to start out the 2017 season. Kickoff is set for 6:00 EST on Thursday, August 31 at Bright House Networks Stadium. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

If you want to place a wager on this contest, our Week 1 odds have UCF listed as a 17-point favorite. The over/under for this matchup has been set at 55 points. Early action has been on the Panthers, as this line originally opened with the Knights at -20.

Central Florida vs Florida International Vegas Odds & Game Preview

The Knights were one of the most improved teams in the country in 2016. After going 0-12 in 2015, UCF won 6 games in the first year under head coach Scott Frost. It could have been even better, as they suffered 3 losses by 7-points or less.

There’s a lot of excitement in Orlando going into the new campaign. The Knights have 13 starters back, with 9 of those on the offensive side of the ball. If South Florida doesn’t live up to the hype, UCF is a team that could end up taking home the top spot in the AAC East.

FIU is hoping they can have a similar type of turnaround in 2017. The Panthers couldn’t be more excited about the hiring of new head coach Butch Davis, who has a track record of winning (79-43 record in 10 seasons). He takes over a program that went just 4-8 last year and has not had a winning season since 2011.

Davis steps into a good situation, as FIU is one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Panthers have 5 returning starters and 57 total lettermen back from last year.

NCAA Football Free Betting Selection: UCF/FIU OVER 55

I would lean towards the Panthers at +17. However, I think the real value here is with the total and this going over the mark of 55. These two teams played last season at FIU and the Knights cruised to a 53-14 win. UCF had zero problem moving the football, racking up 501 yards of total offense.

Want more free betting advice? Click here to check out all the available free college football picks from our expert handicappers.

FIU’s gets back 8 starters on defense, but are still a work in progress and will be learning a new system. More than anything, I think the Knights are going to be electric on the offensive side of the ball. They went from averaging 13.9 ppg in 2015 to putting up 28.8 ppg. Now in year two under Frost’s fast-paced attack he brought over from Oregon, they are primed to take another step forward. Especially given they go from having a true freshman starting to an experienced sophomore in McKenzie Milton.

While the offense will be explosive, the Knights defense figures to take a step back. They only return 4 starters and lose 7 of their top 9 takers from last season.

Don’t be fooled by FIU only scoring 14-points in last year meeting. Former head coach Ron Turner decided to to start red-shirt freshman Maurice Alexander over the experienced Alex McGough. Alexander went just 6 of 14 for 41 yards. McGough got into the game and led the Panthers to a TD, throwing for 68 yards on just 9 attempts.

McGough has been named the starter and needs just a little of 3,000 yards to leave as FIU’s all-time leading passer. He’s got his favorite target back in senior Thomas Owens. Plus, the Panthers are high on sophomore Stanley Thomas and Darrius Scott, who both made big contributions as freshmen.

Florida International should see an uptick in scoring behind new OC Rich Skrosky, who is someone that likes to air it out. Keep in mind that UCF isn’t going to know what to expect from the Panthers. I see both teams eclipsing the 30-point mark in this one, which has this flying over the total of 55.