Point/Counterpoint: Easier Schedule? - 2 of 2

The second of two members of the InsideKnights.com staff debates whether UCF's 2009 schedule is a little less challenging than last season.

Point/Counterpoint- Easier Schedule in 2009? Part 2 of 2

UCF might have won two of its final three games, but it might be difficult to erase a disappointing season which ended with a 4-8 record. The early departure of Kevin Smith, injuries and inexperience might have been a large reason for the team's drop-off last year, but a challenging schedule certainly didn't help.

Charlie Bernstein—

I want the Knights schedule to be easier in 2009, I really do, but I don't see that as a possibility. Although I think the Knights will be an improved football team, largely based on an infusion of talent on the offensive line, the schedule is every bit as demanding as a year ago, and even more so.

The Knights open with a Samford team at home, a game that should be somewhat of a tune-up (gimmie). Samford is equivalent to 2008's opener against S.C. State. UCF then takes a trip up to Southern Miss, a team that closed 2008 with five consecutive wins, including a 17-6 victory over the Knights last November in Orlando. UCF then hosts Buffalo, a team coming off its best-ever finish that included a bowl game appearance.

Samford, at Southern Miss, and Buffalo is very comparable to the first quarter of the Knights season a year ago in which they opened with two home games against S.C. State and USF, followed by a road trip to Boston College.

UCF's second quarter of the season begins with a trip to the reigning C-USA champion East Carolina Pirates, followed by a very manageable home game against Memphis, then a rematch with the University of Miami. The ECU game will be very difficult, but the Pirates have nearly as many quarterback question marks as the Knights. Memphis should be a slam-dunk, and I believe the time to get Miami was a year ago when they played several freshmen. Even though this game is played in Orlando, the ‘Canes will be a much improved team.

A year ago, the Knights played host to a terrible SMU team, then was smashed by UTEP on the road, and followed that up by a narrow loss at Miami in the second quarter of the season. This year's quarter appears very similar, as the "easy" game should be Memphis (comparable to SMU), the tough road game will be ECU, and the Knights take on what figures to be a much better Miami team, albeit at home.

The third quarter of the UCF season features a trip to Houston to take on the Rice Owls, followed by a home game against Marshall, then a tough trip to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns. The game against Rice will certainly be a test for the Knights young secondary as the Owls dynamic offense averaged better than 51 points per game at home a year ago en route to a 6-0 mark at Rice Stadium. The Knights must find a win against Marshall in Orlando because it's likely that this young team will get bludgeoned by Colt McCoy and the Texas Longhorns in Austin.

Last year, the Knights lost all three games in this stretch, as they were defeated by Tulsa after playing a good first half, 49-19; the team then dropped a pair of home games to ECU and Southern Miss. The third quarter of the 2009 season poses a much more daunting task for coach O'Leary and the Knights.

The Knights finish the regular season by hosting Houston and Tulane, followed by a road trip to Birmingham to take on the UAB Blazers. Houston won six out of eight C-USA games a year ago, and their offense will likely challenge the Knights defense. Tulane should struggle as they did a year ago, and the Knights should find a way to make the Green Wave wish they were back in New Orleans. UCF should be a better team than UAB, but we thought that last year when they were shut out at home, 15-0.

The Knights have an infinitely more difficult closing schedule in '09 rather than in '08, as they had a "whose who" of cellar-dwellers' a year ago, with Marshall, Memphis, then UAB.

I stand by my comments that UCF will be a better team in 2009 than they were a year ago, but the schedule is much more difficult. The Knights will be challenged, and if they can earn a bowl opportunity, it will be well-deserved.

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