UCF sits at 2-2 heading into the Thursday's showdown with BYU — and after a great defensive performance against Houston, the Knights head into the easiest part of their schedule.
It's a great checkpoint for the 2014 UCF season, one that still could end in the Knights winning the AAC.
But to do that, a few things need to happen:
First, let's establish that despite the .500 record, there has been plenty of good in Orlando. Through four games, the defense has seven takeaways and 14 sacks — that among the best in the nation, according to football outsiders, which ranks UCF's defense No. 41 in defensive efficiency and No. 21 in explosive plays against.
While highly-touted linebacker Terrance Plummer has been disappointing so far in 2014, defensive linemen Thomas Niles has been a revelation for the Knights. The junior has been dominant and leads the Knights in sacks (4).
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jacoby Glenn has been the ballhawk fans and coaches expected him to be.
Much of the credit should go to defensive coordinator Tyson Summers. Early in the season, lackluster performances made it appear that the first-year coordinator was in over his head. Adjustments have been made, and the ship has been righted, and now the the UCF defense is on the same path as last year's unit. This time last year, UCF ranked in the 50s in defensive FEI, this year, they check in at No. 49.
If UCF expects to win the AAC, quarterback Justin Holman's play is critical.
There's been discussion about swapping out Holman, who started the season as UCF's No. 2, with transfer Nick Patti, but it's clear from the first four games this season that Holman is UCF's man.
Holman's numbers aren't gaudy —659 yards with six TDs and two interceptions — but they could be. Holman is the most talented quarterback on the UCF roster, hands down, and he's shown flashes of brilliance against high-quality defenses this year. It'd only be fair to expect more flashes against weaker opponents down the stretch — and success should foster more confidence in Holman and in the coaches' booth.
There's been some ugly thus far in UCF's season. UCF's offense ranks No. 113 in efficiency and No. 93 in explosive plays. Know who has better numbers? Tulsa and Idaho.
Against a weak schedule the offense needs to match the progress of the defense, or UCF's season won't end in celebration.
UCF faces one of the easiest conference schedules in the country with the likes of Tulsa, Tulane, and SMU upcoming. The team has enough talent to be undefeated in conference headed into the ECU game.