With what UCF has displayed to date, I’ve become virtually certain that the winner of the War on I-4 clinches the division. Seeing what we have to date, I don’t believe either the Knights or the Bulls will have more than one loss by the time it’s Black Friday (and USF, with an extremely easy conference draw, really should be undefeated).
The riskiest game for UCF on the way to the War on I-4 is Navy. SMU should be easier, but still a potentially dangerous game. Aside from these three games, nothing else on the Knights’ schedule looks particularly concerning.
Our past and future opponents, in schedule order:
FIU Panthers (3-1 Overall, 2-0 Conference USA)
Struggled mightily against winless Charlotte before rallying behind the play of quarterback Alex McGough for a razor thin 30-29 victory. Embarassingly, FIU was down 26-7 near the end of the second quarter.
So despite their record (and holding first place in the East division of Conference USA), the Panthers are not a good team. Oddly enough, they could wind up being 4-1 after this week anyway – FIU plays an injury-ravaged Middle Tennessee team.
Maryland Terrapins (3-1 Overall, 1-0 Big Ten)
Oh, I love this one. The Terps handled Minnesota 31-24 despite being a 13 point underdog.
It’s a win that exposes the false narrative that UCF only beat the Maryland because they lost Kasim Hill to injury. Terps third string QB Max Bortenschlager – whom UCF rendered totally ineffective – had a very nice game against Minnesota, going 18/28 for 154 yards, two touchdowns, and adding a third touchdown on the ground.
The Terps play Ohio State this week, and this will ruin the “UCF’s first three opponents are undefeated apart from their losses to the Knights” factoid. Ah well. Maryland is a good team and a quality win for the Knights.
Memphis Tigers (3-1 Overall, 0-1 AAC)
Last week in this spot, I said I’d pick UCF to win in a tight game. Oops. Dude, we blew these guys away.
Memphis remains a good team and what I saw didn’t dissuade me from thinking they could win their division.
Cincinnati Bearcats (2-3 Overall, 0-1 AAC)
QB Hayden Moore was a disaster until garbage time and the running game did little to help. The Bearcats are a team with significant limitations.
ECU Pirates (1-4 Overall, 1-1 AAC)
The ECU offense showed up, but the Pirates still lost to USF in a 61-31 blowout. QB Thomas Sirk performed well. The defense was absolutely shredded, however.
Navy Midshipmen (4-0 Overall, 3-0 AAC)
Navy went down 14-0 early against Tulsa. Then the Midshipmen defense woke up. Navy ended up scoring 31 unanswered points to win.
Austin Peay Governors (3-2 Overall, 2-0 Ohio Valley Conference)
Not a lot of offense here, as the Governors notched a 7-0 win over Tennessee-Martin. Good for Austin Peay’s third straight win in a row, however. The Governors have only lost to FBS programs so far this year.
SMU Mustangs (4-1 Overall, 1-0 AAC)
SMU allowed East division bottom dweller UConn to hang around until the fourth quarter. In the end, the Mustangs put away the Huskies 49-28. Though SMU’s defense line played very well, the rest of the defense underwhelmed.
Seeing how the Knights rolled over Memphis, I’m not overly concerned about our future match-up. But make no mistake – SMU is better than almost all of our East division opponents.
UConn Huskies (1-3 Overall, 0-2 AAC)
The Huskies are a poor team, but the offense is making some improvements.
Still the worst team in the division.
Temple Owls (2-3 Overall, 0-2 AAC)
Lost to Houston, 20-13. The Owls defense did well enough, but Temple just couldn’t get things going offensively.
#18 USF Bulls (5-0 Overall, 2-0 AAC)
The Bulls didn’t start sharp (I’m sure you’re just shocked to hear that), but they poured it on in the second half, outscoring ECU 30-7 in their thirty point win.
This is an excellent USF team with tremendous potential. But they’re still having problems getting everything to click consistently.