UCF seems to go through changes every year, starting in 2004 where they held the nations longest losing streak, which ended at 17 in 2005. That year, the Knights won eight of their final nine regular season games to go 8-3. They hosted the inaugural Conference USA Championship game and played in the Hawaii Bowl; both games ending in heartbreak for the Knights. The following year, the team struggled and finished with a 4-8 record. In 2007, UCF opened Bright House Networks Stadium and saw the emergence of tailback Kevin Smith, as an elite offensive weapon. In their first home game in the new stadium, they played the sixth-ranked Texas Longhorns, and narrowly lost 35-32. They completed the regular season 9-3, won the Conference USA Championship and played in the Liberty Bowl, losing to Mississippi State 10-3. Kevin Smith rushed for 2,567 yards that year, missing Barry Sanders record by only 61 yards. With Smith departing a year early for the NFL draft, the Knights ended the 2008 campaign with a 4-8 record. So what should this say about 2009?
Currently, UCF is 3-2 on the season, 1-2 in conference play, and hosts the nationally ranked Miami Hurricanes next Saturday. The rest of their games are against conference opponents, with the exception of the Longhorns in Austin in early November.
Not only is this game with the Hurricanes an emerging state rivalry for the Knights, but for only the second time in Bright House Networks Stadium history, it will host a nationally ranked team. The Hurricanes come in to the game ranked ninth, after beginning the season unranked. Victories over ranked ACC opponents Florida State and Georgia Tech, and a win over Oklahoma boosted Miami into the national spotlight. Meanwhile for UCF, they struggled but won against Buffalo and D1-AA Samford and lost to C-USA opponents East Carolina and Southern Miss. In their most recent game, the Knights struggled in the first half versus Memphis, only scoring three points while owning time of possession twenty minutes to ten. The Knights awoke in the second and scored the final 23 points in that game, defeating the Tigers 32-14.
After UCF battles Miami, their road doesn't get much easier. They travel to southeast Texas to play the Rice Owls, then come back home for a Sunday night game versus Marshall on national television. They get a short week after playing the Herd when they travel back to Texas to take on Heisman candidate Colt McCoy and the Longhorns, a team currently ranked second in the nation.
Don't think Texas head coach Mack Brown forgot who the Knights are; after playing the Knights in 2007 he said, "Give them credit. . . I told the kids today that I did not think they understood what they were about to get into. It was a trap game for us and a buzz saw."
UCF comes back home on November 14th when they host the Houston Cougars for homecoming. Houston was ranked 15th in the nation just a few weeks ago and looks to be the front-runner in Conference USA. The Knights close their home schedule versus the Tulane Green Wave. They end the year on the road, taking on a UAB team that shut out the Knights last year 15-0.
For UCF to succeed, and possibly be invited to a bowl game (if they qualify), this game versus Miami is huge. They would advance to 4-2 on the season, have a win against a top 25 team, with a meeting versus Texas and an important conference battle versus Houston still to come. With a win, the fans would turn Brighthouse Stadium into a trampoline, literally, and bring excitement back to the campus, as it was in 2007. It would be the first win against a ranked opponent in school history, let alone a great recruiting tool for the university. A loss versus the Hurricanes puts them at 3-3 and in jeopardy of not qualifying for a bowl game. They would need to win out and get some help from other conference teams to play for the C-USA championship this year, already sustaining two losses versus division foes, but if they can finish over .500, it will be an accomplishment.
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