It’s the kickoff to a new season for the newly not self-crowned, National Champion #21 ranked UCF Knights. Just because they are playing an often rebuilding UConn Huskies team, it doesn’t hide the fact that this could be one of their most important games of the season.
First, it is a conference game, and the first time the Knights have started the season off with one. UCF is all about championships. They wouldn’t want to derail their chances in the AAC by not taking the Huskies seriously.
More importantly perhaps, is the not so obvious. UCF is playing in a bigger arena these days, one that involves National Championships, CFB Playoffs, and more realistically, NY6 Bowl Game invitations.
This game matters most because UConn’s very next opponent is Boise State, pretty much the only team standing in the way of a NY6 return that UCF won’t play. Say all you want about it being too early in the season, but style point WILL matter in this one.
Add the fact that Boise will get UConn after UCF, and at home, while UCF travels on the road. This means there can be no mercy in this game, no points left uncollected. Boise will have the advantage of trying to outscore not just UConn, but also UCF, when they play the Huskies at home.
UCF gets a break with this game being in August rather than bone-chilling November. And the inexperienced Huskies are not receiving any favors getting a veteran powerhouse team like the Knights right out of the gate. Rivalry or not, they will need more than adrenaline for this mismatch.
When UCF Knights Have The Ball
Reputations will be at stake when new Coach Josh Heupel’s offense takes the field after UCF being ranked #1 last year. The Knights will look to first establish the inside running game with Adrian Killins Jr and Taj McGowan against UConn’s inexperienced D Line, which loses three starters from last year’s squad. The defense overall is extremely young, possibly starting as many as 6 true or redshirt freshmen and 5 sophomores.
UCF’s Heisman candidate McKenzie Milton will be licking his chops with the arsenal of weapons at his disposal, with WR’s Dredrick Snelson, Gabriel Davis, Otis Anderson, & Tre Nixon stretching the defense downfield, and TE’s Micheal Colubiale and Jake Hescock getting open over the middle.
When UConn Huskies Have The Ball
The Huskies return experienced QB David Pindell, and lots of skill players, but he will need all of his mobility to escape the weakness of his offensive line, whose running game ranked last in the FBS statistically.
Randy Shannon’s new attacking 4-3 defense will be chomping at the bit to show off their pre-season work, and the new mandate to make more TFL’s and Sacks. UCF’s new front seven led by senior ILB Pat Jasinski will be fluid, with starting spots still up for grab potentially, so expect maximum effort and lots of rotation. The secondary led by senior S Kyle Gibson will get a fair test as the Huskies have competent receivers, should Pindell find some room to throw.
The defense must be careful not to let Pindell loose though, as he was effective in scrambling 21 times against UCF last year for 96 yds, including a TD. With both offenses going up-tempo, expect a high play count in this game with a lot of 3 and outs on the UConn side.
UCF returns a solid tandem of seniors K Matthew Wright, P Mac Loudermilk, and LS Caleb Perez. Loudermilk will also handle the holds on FG’s and extra points. Couldn’t be less stressful for a new head coach. UCF’s does lose Mike Hughes on the return game but has a multitude of speed merchants to chose from, including Tristan Payton, who was the primary KR from 2016.
UConn, on the other hand, is the picture of unreliability. Their returning kicker, Michael Tarbutt as only 75% from in close (0-39), and just 50% from 40 yds and beyond. He was also just 27-29 on extra points, as a failing kick game cost the Huskies a few wins.
Inside The Numbers (2017)
UCF Off. vs UConn Def. UCF Def. vs UConn Off.
48.2 Points 37.9 25.3 Points 23.6
331.8 Pass Yds 333.9 268.1 Pass Yds 269.2
198.5 Rush Yds 185.1 159.8 Rush Yds 146.0
71.0 Plays 76.7 74.5 Plays 75.6
7.5 Yds/Play 6.8 5.7 Yds/Play 5.5
Look for UCF to press for a big lead early against a porous UConn defense to take away any chance for the Huskies to establish its running game. ESPN has the Knights with an 86.1% chance of beating the Huskies. This one will not be pretty for UConn. UCF by 38, 52-14.
When: Thurs, Aug. 30th, 7:00 PM, EST
Weather: 79 F, Clear Accuweather Forecast
Series Record: UCF 3 – UConn 2
ESPN Gamecast: Game Stats
Watch Live: UCF at UConn Tickets
Free Internet Stream: First Row Sports LiveStream
Betting Line: UCF -23.5, Over/Under 74 UCF at UConn OddsShark.com