The UCF Knights finally got to play their second game of the season last week. And what a game it was. The Knights manhandled Maryland 38-10. Credit to the lines – especially the defensive line – for winning in the trenches.
The downside was of course Jawon Hamilton’s season-ending non-contact ankle injury. Fortunately, he will use a medical redshirt.
After the Maryland win, the Knights look like a very good team; our chances to compete for a conference championship are real. And it continues to grow even more clear that the AAC East is going to be a two team race between UCF and USF.
Our former and future opponents are below in schedule order. Note the addition of FCS program Austin Peay on what had been a bye week. Great job by UCF to get an opponent rescheduled and the Knights back up to 11 games (not everyone’s so fortunate – our would-have-been opponent Georgia Tech has been unable to schedule a replacement game).
FIU Panthers (2-1 Overall, 1-0 Conference USA)
FIU is 2-1 and in first place in Conference USA’s East division. Nope, our blowout of the Panthers was still not a quality win. FIU has notched wins against Alcorn State (17-10, though FIU was more statistically dominant than you might guess from the score), and this past week’s 13-7 win over their conference foe Rice. Rice is terrible. Expect the Panthers to be 3-1 next week after playing another atrocious conference foe, winless Charlotte.
It’s not that the week 1 win over the Panthers does much for the resume, but the Knights did exactly what they should have – crushed an over-matched opponent without breaking much of a sweat.
Maryland Terrapins (2-1 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
You know what happened here. Highlights? Highlights.
.@UCF_Football raced past Maryland for the 38-10 victory: https://t.co/vhLhWOrTZN pic.twitter.com/KQpQNA1GL6— American Football (@American_FB) September 24, 2017
The injury to Maryland’s quarterback Kasim Hill made an obvious difference in this game, but I’m confident in saying it didn’t change the outcome (and if we’re pretending injuries didn’t happen, add Hamilton back to our side). But the injury to Hill undoubtedly limits what Maryland can achieve going forward.
Memphis Tigers (3-0 Overall, 0-0 AAC)
A week after edging out a ranked UCLA team, Memphis was a bit out of sorts against the Southern Illinois Salukis and ultimately won 44-31. I predicted our game against the Tigers as a loss when it was scheduled before Irma. But seeing what we have this season, I’ll pick a UCF win in a tight game. Memphis’s defense is suspect. I have more confidence in the Knights’ ability to make stops.
Cincinnati Bearcats (2-2 Overall, 0-1 AAC)
The offense finally woke up a bit for the Bearcats, but this week the defense let them down against Navy. The Bearcats lost 42-32. Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore – who had made bunches of mistakes so far this season - had one of his best games.
I put the Bearcats in the middle tier of the division with Temple. Call them the East’s likely number three. I expect the Knights to beat them, though it’s no guarantee.
ECU Pirates (1-3 Overall, 1-0 AAC)
In this space last week, I claimed the Pirates were the worst team in the East. I was wrong. That dubious distinction belongs to UConn. The Pirates jumped to an early lead over the Huskies on Saturday and won 41-38.
Are there signs of life for the Pirates? Nah, probably not. The Huskies are terrible.
Navy Midshipmen (3-0 Overall, 2-0 AAC)
Navy’s triple option attack continues to put up yards and points with ease. Against Cincinnati, the Midshipmen had 569 yards rushing, with more than 300 coming in the first half. Navy hasn’t missed a beat. Though the strength of UCF’s front seven continues to be obvious, this nonetheless looks to be one of the three most dangerous games remaining on UCF’s schedule.
Austin Peay (2-2, 1-0 Ohio Valley Conference)
We’re all grateful for the chance to get the eleventh game in. Football season is far too short as it is. You may remember the Governors from their closer-than-expected loss against the Bearcats in week one. They also lost to the other FBS program they faced, Miami (OH). In week three, Austin Peay smashed Morehead State to end the Governors’ 29 game losing streak.
And on Saturday, Austin Peay beat conference opponent Murray State 27-7. The Governors lean heavily on the run and so far this season have one of the best FCS defenses.
SMU Mustangs (3-1 Overall, 0-0 AAC)
Beat Arkansas State 44-21, capitalizing on miscues by the Red Wolves. SMU is better almost all of UCF’s AAC East foes, but probably the third toughest cross-divisional foe the Knights will face. I’m oversimplifying, but the Ponies look to be a worse Memphis.
UConn Huskies (1-2 Overall, 0-1 AAC)
Temple Owls (2-2 Overall, 0-1 AAC)
Dominated totally by USF’s defense – in part because USF’s defense is great and in part because Temple’s offense was profoundly terrible. The Owls utter inefficacy was something else – Temple had -22 yards at the half and Logan Marchi (I’ve claimed he was a steady hand at QB. Oops.) threw four picks. None of the three quarterbacks Temple used were effective.
The Knights’ defense will be tearing these guys apart.
USF Bulls (4-0 Overall, 1-0 AAC)
USF is still making mistakes, but the Bulls easily crushed Temple by a margin of 43-7. QB Quinton Flowers struggled passing, going a mere 8-20 for 96 yards. He also had the ball stripped on a pass play and returned by Temple for a touchdown. And Flowers had his lowest rushing total of the year with 59 yards.
I keep waiting for the Bulls to perform consistently in all phases simultaneously, but that hasn’t happened yet. Even if it doesn’t, the Bulls will march through their schedule (even if no one’s there to see it) until Black Friday. There’s a very real possibility this rivalry game will decide the division.