Conference Play Begins for UCF

In 2007, UCF finished a near dream season, winning 10 games and the C-USA championship, the first conference title in school history. With UTEP coming up on Saturday, the Knights begin their quest to repeat as conference champs.

The Knights got off to a rough start in conference play a year ago, starting 1-1 after giving up 52 points to East Carolina. UCF bounced back following the sloppy performance, winning the next seven conference games while scoring no less than 34 points. UCF's seventh and final conference win was in the championship game against Tulsa at Bright House Networks stadium. UCF downed Tulsa 44-25 to be the 2007 conference champions. Now the Knights will try to repeat this season, but this time they'll have a huge target on their back.

"Being defending conference champions, you aren't sneaking up on anybody," said Coach George O'Leary.

O'Leary's words ring true, as he knows it will be a monumental task to repeat. Since the conference formed in 1996, only one team has been dubbed conference champion two years in a row and that was Louisville in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

The Knights will begin their quest to repeat against the University of Texas-El Paso Miners, a winless team that could cause potential problems. The Miners have an abundance of speed, which is always dangerous, and they will be looking to avenge their 36-20 loss versus UCF last season.

Senior cornerback Johnell Neal knows the importance of not sleeping on the Miners and also how crucial it is to win the first conference game of the season.

It's a big game, it helps dictate where your season's going. We need to go out there and try the get the ‘W' because it's the first conference game, it's probably the most important one of season."

O'Leary said that his team is certainly ready to begin conference play, but still remains a bit disappointed that his team didn't perform against BCS conference teams.

"I think it's like anything else, after that Boston College game, it takes me three or four days to get unwind. As I tell the players, we put a special emphasis on out of conference games, I did, and obviously I was talking to myself."

With just one more out of conference game, O'Leary and his Knights will now be focusing on conference play. Even though the team fell short to the likes of USF and Boston College this season, UCF still has to take care of its number one goal, and that is winning the conference title again. O'Leary knows this will be a difficult task with all conference teams gunning for his Knights, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I would much rather be in that position than where we started. We didn't miss a homecoming when we first got here."

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