Inside Knights has already given you a couple season previews, one on the optimistic side by Brendan Sonnone, and one a little bit less optimistic, by J.D. Bernstein. It's now my turn, and after just a week of spring practice I'm going to share my views of the upcoming season.
Saturday, September 5th- Samford- Win (1-0)
Although I had a chance to have a good conversation with Samford alum Cortland Finnegan at the Pro Bowl last month about his former school, I can't see a way that Samford travels to Orlando and pulls off an upset in the season opener. Still, don't expect a 30+ point blowout as the offense will be facing "live bullets" for the first time.
Saturday, Sept. 12th at Southern Miss – Loss (1-1)
This is one of the two games in my opinion that will define the Knights season. This is a winnable game for UCF, as DeAndre Brown and Damion Fletcher may or may not play, but I don't think a very young offense can produce enough points to win in a fairly hostile environment.
Saturday, Sept. 19th Buffalo – Win (2-1)
Although Buffalo is coming off a remarkable 2008 season, they lose starting quarterback Drew Willy to the NFL. This Buffalo team is far from a powerhouse following just one good year, and the UCF defense should be dominant in a very excitable homefield situation. The Knights get it done by a slim margin, in another game that could legitimately go either way.
The first quarter of the season will tell a lot for this young UCF team, as they could realistically be 3-0 or 1-2. If they are undefeated, the confidence they gain could take them a long way. If they are 1-2 with a narrow victory over a FCS school, the team could head in the wrong direction with some tough opponents looming.
Saturday, September 26th at ECU- Loss (2-2)
We expect ECU to be improved next season and I don't think the Knights young offense can manufacture enough points to win in the sea of purple. Pirates by 10.
Saturday, October 3rd Memphis- Win (3-2)
The Memphis Tigers should be improved, but just by a slight margin. UCF was able to score enough points to win at the Liberty Bowl a year ago, and they need to win at home this time around, and will.
Saturday, October 17th Miami- Loss (3-3)
Even with a bye week to prepare for the Hurricanes, Miami has far too much speed and talent on both sides of the ball. UCF's best chance to get the Canes came last season, and if they had any offense whatsoever, they would've got the job done. Jacory Harris will tear apart the young UCF secondary en route to a three touchdown victory.
Half the season is done, and the Knights are a .500 team. By now we should begin to see some improvement on offense and in the secondary, despite the ugly outcome against Miami.
Saturday, October 24th at Rice- Loss (3-4)
The Rice Owls will be much improved, and I'm not sure that UCF can secure their first road victory of the year. This is a potentially winnable game if the Knights offensive line and quarterback position improves. This one can go either way, and assuming there are no major injuries for either side, Rice will find a way in a close one.
Sunday, November 1st Marshall- Win (4-4)
The Knights find some offense on national television as they have the friendly confines of Bright House Networks Stadium rockin'. Marshall loses Chubb Small and Darius Passmore and they are no match for the Knights in Orlando.
Saturday, November 7th at Texas- Loss (4-5)
This is a mismatch from kickoff to gun. The Longhorns have next year's Heisman Trophy winner Colt McCoy back along with a wealth of other talent. We understand that the Knights hung with them at home two years ago, but there's no Kevin Smith to hand the ball to 27 times this time around, and Colt McCoy is now an NFL level quarterback. This one gets ugly folks.
The third quarter of the season is complete, and the Rice game may define the UCF season as they could go into a tailspin following a blowout loss.
Saturday, November 14th Houston- Loss (4-6)
In an evenly matched game, the team with the better signal caller usually wins. Cougars junior quarterback Case Keenum led the nation in total offense a year ago, and Houston should outscore the Knights at home.
Saturday, November 21st Tulane- Win (5-6)
The Knights get well against a good, but not good enough Tulane team. This is a key matchup as this UCF team must get a win at home.
Saturday, November 28th at UAB- Win (6-6)
It's crossroads time for the Knights, as they need to record a road win to get bowl eligible and avoid getting shut out away from Orlando for the first time since the miserable season that shall not be named. UCF avenges a home defeat a year ago to UAB when they had nothing to play for and finds a road win which could potentially change the fortunes of the entire program.
Final outlook: There are about six real swing games on the schedule that include Southern Miss, Buffalo, Rice, Houston, Tulane, and UAB. These games will define the Knights season, as they could go 3-9, or if everything breaks right they could potentially have a seven or eight win season. UCF must take care of business at home more than any other year, as they will struggle with their young offense to put points up on the road.
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