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UCF Knights 2015 Football Schedule Set & Early Reactions

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With the addition of the Furman Paladins, the Knights' 2015 schedule is set. Let's break down what it all means.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

With the addition of an early season cupcake opponent at home (the Furman Paladins), UCF's 2015 football season is now set. Here's how it shapes up:

Date

Opponent

Home or Away

Sept. 5

FIU

Home

Sept. 12

Stanford

Away

Sept. 19

Furman

Home (Family Weekend)

Sept. 26

South Carolina

Away

Oct. 3

Tulane

Away

Oct. 10

UConn

Home

Oct. 17

Temple

Away

Oct. 24

Houston

Home (Homecoming)

Oct. 31

Cincinnati

Away

Nov. 7

Tulsa

Away

Nov. 19

ECU

Home

Nov. 27

USF

Home

Oh, we've got divisions and an AAC championship game now. The addition of Navy to the conference for the 2015 season means the AAC has enough teams to split into divisions and play a conference championship game. Our opponents from the western division this year are Houston, Tulsa, and Tulane. It's particularly great to see Houston among them, since the Knights and the Cougars have some exciting recent history: the Knights won at home in 2013 by breaking up a pass on fourth and goal and in 2014 after forcing Houston's fumble through the end zone for a touchback. On the basketball court, things have also gone the Knights' way in close games against Houston recently. A few days ago, the Knights edged the Cougars 56-54 thanks to BJ Taylor's layup with 2.8 seconds left. And in January, the Knights won 79-78 in overtime when Brandon Goodwin hit a three pointer as time was winding down. Are these the seeds of an inter-divisional rivalry?

The prospect of a championship game is especially exciting after last year's season ended with the three co-champions: UCF, Cincinnati, and Memphis. While it's difficult to imagine that a Knights team with so much turnover (the entire starting secondary and key playmakers on defense, our best group of WRs ever) can win it, the opportunity is there. And of course having a championship game does a lot to increase conference legitimacy (Big 12, I'm looking at you).

No marquee home games, but what a year for road trips. As we look at the schedule now, nothing jumps out as a flashy game at home. Both games in which UCF has an opportunity to make a statement against a P5 school are on the road - Stanford and South Carolina. The good news is that both are winnable games, especially with the Spurrier era seeming to be in wind-down mode at South Carolina. Knights fans are of course aching for an opportunity for revenge after the 28-25 loss to the Gamecocks at home en route to an otherwise undefeated season in 2013.

We also get the long-awaited match-up against Cincinnati, which we would have loved to see last year (three co-champions. Sigh.) or in 2013. The game is in Cincinnati's new stadium. And speaking of away games at new (well, one year old) stadiums, 2015 provides an opportunity for fans to travel to New Orleans for the game against Tulane at Yulman. With Tulane in the western division of the AAC, that's an excuse to visit a fun city that ought not to come around all that often.

But how do we feel about the cupcakes? The home game against FIU makes me happy. When you schedule weak non-conference opponents, they at least ought to be weak in-state conference opponents.

Furman, of course, is an out-of-sate cupcake. It's a small liberal arts school in South Carolina. This is the we-couldn't-find-another-P5-opponent-to-play-us-and-now-it's-late-and-we're-scrambling choice. It turns out that Furman University and schedule space free up as a result of a late developing problems - South Carolina State's budget crisis, temporary closure, and suspension of athletics programs. It's not an exciting opponent, but heck they played the Gators pretty close in 2011. And there's at least a little history between the Knights and the Paladins: the schools last played back in 1984, a time when UCF was still a Div II program.

But maybe the best part of scheduling FIU and Furman is that they break up the tough early non-conference games against Stanford and South Carolina.

Fewer weekday games: on balance, a good thing? Fans who have long complained about the profusion of weekday games now get their wish. UCF plays a Thursday night game against ECU, and on Black Friday against rival USF. To be sure, Saturday games are better attended and much easier for out of town fans to attend.

But George O'Leary is now unhappy, as the Orlando Sentinel's Shannon Owens-Green reports:

Saturday games are great if they're gonna be on national television, but you can't beat national television on Thursday or Friday night . . . You're talking about exposure, that's what you're looking to get for our program that we're in, not in the Power 5. You want to get that national exposure. I have a call to the conference about it, why we were basically left out of it.

. . . I want Thursday night games for exposure and it just seemed odd to me when I got the schedule we play 10 straight without an ESPN game. We're the defending conference champions and there's games that could easily have been ESPN games. You got Cincinnati, Houston. I don't know what happened there.

I'll agree that the loss of opportunities for national exposure hurts (how great was everyone around the country seeing "O Holy Knight"?). But on the whole, this is a good change for the fan base.

Knights fans, how do you feel about the 2015 schedule?