The elite of the MAC, on the other hand, is practicing what UCF is preaching, with three upset victories in out-of-conference play last weekend. Marshall stunned #6 Kansas State; Toledo came from behind to squeeze #11 Pittsburgh and Miami over powered Colorado State.
"It doesn't shock me. I've been saying all along how good this conference is and how good to a team they can be. I'm proud to be a member of this conference, Coach Mike Kruczek said.
As the cliché goes, "a team learns more from a loss than a win." After Syracuse's exploitation of UCF, this should make Kruczek's squad well aware of its weaknesses heading into the first week of conference play at Kent State.
"I think the kids prepare differently for a conference game. Having been in the conference for a year, I think the kids understand how critical each and every week is when you play a member of the conference. I hope that the difference in attitude and focus will be clear on the practice field," Kruczek said.
The Golden Knights and Golden Flashes have only clashed twice in the past. Last year's meeting in Orlando ended in a 32-6 UCF victory. Defense kept the game close until UCF rallied to take the lead with 10 points in the final four minutes of the first half. The 10-3 advantage slowly extended itself throughout the second half.
Behind the arm of Daunte Culpepper, in 1997 UCF was also victorious 59-43. Culpepper threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns while Kent State quarterback Jose Davis passed for 551 yards and six TD's during the offensive display.
Kent State Coach Dean Pees has expanded his role to the team by naming himself defensive coordinator, which gives Kruczek an idea of what should be expected. "Their defense is more active than before," Kruczek said. "They blitz a little more and attack the ball. "We love the opportunity to defend the blitz. We know how to handle that and how to get the ball to people. The blitz does not bother us."
On offense, the Golden Flashes will bring a style of attack not seen this year by UCF. They are just one of eight teams to be ranked in the top 15 in rushing the past two seasons. Last year they averaged 214.9 yards per contest on the ground with 5.32 yards per carry.
Kent State will bring a slight advantage when comparing the two lines. Kent State's offensive line averages 6'4" 290 pounds while UCF's defensive line is only averaging 6'3" 275 pounds.
UCF does have a few schemes that should slow down Kent State's running game and make the differences seem miniscule.
"There are certain things that we can do to defend their option attack. We'll try and blitz a little and disrupt their rhythm. We have to get people filling gaps to shut down their running attack. Preparation is critical, Kruczek said.
A win is
also critical. It would equal one win in one attempt in the always-tough MAC
schedule. It would make the other three out-of-conference games feel obsolete.
Finally, it would give the fans a glimpse of hope that their football team can
do it "Right here, Right now."
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