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Central Florida Knights
There's not much that needs to be said about UCF from last season as the Knights closed with zero wins, including early losses to lowly FIU and Furman. This all came a year after nine wins. And so, they brought in a new coach, Scott Frost, the former Oregon offensive coordinator, who is expected to bring all of those same traits from the Ducks to this offense that scored 13.9 points per game a year ago. The Knights were miserable in 2015, but have enough returning pieces that they could pull off an upset or two.
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Quarterback Justin Holman was a main reason the offense took such a step back last season as his numbers dropped across the board, partly due to a finger injury. He went from 23 TDs in 2014 to 7 TDs and 14 INTs last year, while completing just 50.8% of his passes. Things have to be better this year, especially in this faster paced, no-huddle spread offense. To help, Holman gets back his top receiver in Tre'Quan Smith (52 receptions, 724 yards, 4 TDs) to go with Tristan Payton (264 yards) and tight ends Jordan Franks (246 yards) and Jordan Akins (152 yards).
The running game was even worse than passing last year, as they averaged a measly 2.7 yards per carry as a team. Sophomore Taj McGowan hopes to better those numbers and surpass last year's four total rushing TDs by himself, along with senior Dontravious Wilson.
Of course, the offensive line was a major reason for the problems last year and now has to deal with running a new, quicker offense. That said, they return four starters from that group so experience won't be an issue. It'll just be a matter of how fast the line can learn the offense.
Defense was a tad better in 2015, but that's not saying much as they allowed 37.7 points per game. Most notably, the Knights gave up 40 points at home to a UConn offense that was also one of the worst in the nation. The defense is overhauling into a 3-4 scheme led by new coordinator Erik Chinander, who was Oregon's outside linebackers coach a year ago.
Chinander at least has some talent to work with, mostly on the back end where four returning players are set to start with safety Drico Johnson running things, who led the team in tackles a year ago. Jamiyus Pittman is the name to know along the line as he led the team in sacks, but UCF brought in a lot of new faces, mostly from the junior college ranks. Some guys will move to new positions at linebacker, but that shouldn't be a huge deal as no one really had too much success a year ago.
UCF will have its issues against Big Ten teams early in the year, but should pull out wins against SC State and FIU in the two other non-conference games. There will be a couple opportunities for the Knights to get AAC wins, maybe none more so than an early home game against Tulane or later on against Tulsa. Other than that, they'll need to take down East Carolina or UConn on the road if they want another conference win.
UCF has to be better than it was a year ago, but that still only means three or four wins. They'll be better, no doubt, but just don't expect too much from them in Frost's first season as head coach.
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2016 UCF Knights Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. South Carolina State
Sept. 10 at Michigan
Sept. 17 vs. Maryland
Sept. 24 at FIU
Oct. 1 at East Carolina
Oct. 7 vs. Tulane
Oct. 15 vs. Temple
Oct. 22 at Connecticut
Oct. 29 at Houston
Nov. 12 vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 19 vs. Tulsa
Nov. 26 at South Florida
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