Behind Enemy Lines: SC State Bulldogs Q&A

InsideKnights proudly brings you an inside perspective of UCF's week one opponent, as Thomas Grant previews some pressing questions about the Knights/Bulldogs matchup. Grant is a SC State beat writer for the Times and Democrat newspaper in South Carolina.

On Saturday, the Knights will open their 2008 campaign against a solid South Carolina State team which few people know much about. With all the preseason college football preview magazines available, attaining information on FBS teams is easy, but finding good stuff on FCS teams is a little trickier.

1) Without the run-oriented McCoy at QB, will the offense be more pass happy than last season?

It's safe to say the Bulldogs have been 'airing' the football out this preseason. Even as a freshman, Malcolm Long showed himself to be the better passer between him and McCoy. His strength is throwing the deep ball, but he's savvy enough to put the football right where a receiver can make the catch. The wide receivers love the wide open passing attack initiated by new passing coordinator Howard Feggins and Long is a guy who can put the football right in their hands.

2) Who is RB William Ford's talent comparable to?

In some ways, he's almost a poor man's Brian Westbrook with better speed. He can be very elusive in the open field and has an uncanny knack for finding holes in closed quarters. He has improved his pass-catching ability and was well-rested during the spring and preseason drills. In fact, Coach Pough expressed concern about possible rust for Ford.

3) With a strong and deep offensive line, will S.C State be able to get good push against UCF's front four?

Against Air Force Academy and the University of South Carolina, the line was able to hold its own. While the Bulldogs moved the football, turnovers and an inconsistent passing game prevented them from scoring more points. Though undersized, center Raymond Harrison is one of the most technically sound blockers on his level and Johnny Culbreath is one of the most physical.

4) Are the Bulldogs big enough in the trenches on defense to slow down UCF?

Size and depth is where S.C. State will run into problems. In the two Football Bowl Subdivision games the Bulldogs played last year, the defensive line was dominated in the second half. If the Bulldogs can keep Central Florida's offense off the field with time-sustaining drives, they could stay fresh enough through the second half this year.

5) How critical is LB Tony White's injury to S.C State's success this weekend?

Not only is White the team's leading tackler two of the last three years, he and Marshall McFadden are the heart and soul of the team's defense. He will try to play with a protective cast, but the Bulldogs will need him at full strength should the defensive line falter.

6) What needs to happen in order for SC State to win?
1. They cannot turn the ball over - a problem in all four losses last season.
2. The kicking game must be sound - a problem in all four losses last season.
3. The Bulldogs must keep the Knights honest with a sound passing game - notice a trend here.
4. Central Florida must not have the lead at halftime - SCSU is 5-10 under Pough when trailing at halftime.

7) What would a win at UCF mean for the SC State program?

From a momentum standpoint, it could propel them to a 3-0 start for the Bulldogs entering the Sept. 20 contest against Clemson University. It would be the football program's biggest win since defeating nationally-ranked Furman in 1997 and biggest at the school since the basketball team defeated Clemson University in 1999.

8) How has SC State faired against FBS teams in the recent past?

The Bulldogs played their first-ever such games last season as part of their Centennial anniversary. They were overmatched each time in managing just three points in the two losses to Air Force Academy (34-3) and the University of South Carolina (31-3) and the only bright spot offensively was Will Ford rushing for over 100 yards against the Gamecocks.

9) What do you think SC State's biggest concern about UCF is?

Pough expressed concern about how his offensive line will be able to block Central Florida's defensive front. He pointed to last year's Liberty Bowl contest against Mississippi State, although the Bulldogs of Starkville are not exactly an offensive juggernaut. In my opinion, it would be how the wide receivers handle the experience and physical play of Central Florida's secondary. If the passing game does not open things up and Central Florida's defensive line is as good as Pough has advertised, it will be a long night for S.C. State.

10) What will Knights' fans say to themselves about SC State after leaving Bright House Stadium on Saturday?

Either A) "That's some Marching 101 Band S.C. State has!" or B) "Who does (Long) think he is, Daunte Culpepper?"

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