UCF: What to Look For

With one day until UCF opens up its season, Inside Knights offers some perspective on what you should be looking for this Saturday.

Keys to the Game for the Knights

1. Get off to an early start- It is crucial in a game like this to not let a team like Samford stick around. Beat them early and they will lose all hope of winning the game.

2. Run the ball effectively- You can argue that this is crucial to win any game, but the Knights are primarily a running team, as they should be with a back like Brynn Harvey. They got to show the ability to move the ball, and show that the line is improved, especially against a relatively undersized front four.

3. Avoid giving up big plays- Few teams will be able to move the ball consistently against this Knights' tough defense (Texas excluded from that). So it will be crucial for UCF to avoid giving up the big plays of 30 plus yards, as those type of plays can keep the Bulldogs hanging around.

4. Enjoy the home cooking- Bright House Networks Stadium is a big home field advantage for the Knights and they have to keep the crowd into the game by grabbing an early lead. If Samford stays in it into the second half, the crowd will be mum.

5. Win time of possession- Both teams are going to try to pound the rock and control the game on the ground so T.O.P. should be a telling stat in this game.

What to Look For

1. Look for an energized Knights team- The team is trying to get the bitter taste of a 4-8 season out of its mouth and the Knights are ready to prove they belong.

2. Look for both Brett Hodges and Rob Calabrese to play- The coaches like the poise and athleticism of Calabrese, but also are impressed with the senior leadership skills of Hodges.

3. Look for some true freshmen to see the field- Some guys that should all see action include A.J. Bouye, Kemal Ishmael, Josh Robinson and Quincy McDuffie. Jonathan Davis might get some goal line reps as well.

4. Look for Samford to win or tie the turnover battle- Their game consists of ball control and running the rock. The Bulldogs should be able to control the ball and should force some turnovers against what is still a young Knights team. They will however, struggle mightily in trying to run against this Knights defense and when UCF shuts down the run, Samford will go to the air. How the Bulldogs fair when passing the ball might determine how close this game is.

5. Look for a cooler, calmer Coach O'Leary- One big thing to take note of this summer was that the head coach had taken a bit more hands off approach. O'Leary is trusting the coaches he has in place to run the show more, he seems much more relaxed and is not scolding players nearly as much as in the past. Don't get me wrong though, if a catastrophic blunder occurs, the player involved will still receive a less than friendly chat.

Predictions

1. UCF will score at least three offensive touchdowns- They have improved offensively and want to show that off. Don't be surprised if Brynn Harvey has multiple scores himself. It may not sound impressive, but for an offense that struggled to score against FCS South Carolina St. last season, this will represent significant improvement.

2. The Knights will win- Not a crazy or bold prediction by any means, but this will not be App. St. vs. Michigan. The Knights are too big and strong up front and will be able to man handle a much smaller Samford squad.

3. The Knights will get over 350 yards of total offense- Last year 150 was a struggle, but they have a better system, are much improved and they want to prove that against a FCS school.

4. A crowd of 40,000+ will be in attendance- Last year the numbers started to dwindle as the team did, but there is a new breath of confidence in the team and excitement for the start of a new season is in the air.

5. The Knights will hold Samford under 175 yards of total offense- This is still a stingy defense, and they want to prove that. They will come out with a strong performance.

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