SCott Frost is gone, but UCF is once again expected to be a top-25 team this year after going undefeated and beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl last season. Going undefeated probably won’t happen again, but the Knights are favored to win the AAC (+135) and are expected to fight for another solid bowl behind stud quarterback McKenzie Milton. On the surface, the Schedule is a bit tougher than a year ago and that’s why their early over/under was set at 8.5 wins (jumped to 9.5 as of late July) at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
New coach Josh Heupel comes over from the Missouri offense, which was almost as high scoring as UCF last year so there isn’t expected to be a drop off. Milton has +8000 odds to win the Heisman and that’s not a reach after he had 35 touchdowns and only nine picks on 10.54 yards per attempt in 2017 to go with 497 rushing yards. If he can improve those numbers, the Heisman could definitely be in reach. But to improve, the line can’t drop off with possibly three new starters. At the least, almost all relevant skill players are back with Adrian Killins (762 yards, 10 TDs) and Otis Anderson (456 rushing yards, 334 receiving yards) in the backfield and Dredrick Snelson (42 receptions, 7 TDs) and Gabriel Davis catching passes along with former Wisconsin tight end Jake Hescock. Under Heupel, this offense should be just as explosive and up-tempo so scoring 45-plus points per Game is a definite possibility.
The difference is that the defense could drop off with a few playmakers leaving for the NFL, mainly their top corner and edge rusher. That said, this group shouldn’t regress much, if at all, under new coordinator Randy Shannon, who comes over from numerous roles at Florida. Senior linebackers Pat Jasinski and Titus Davis can keep the group afloat with Trysten Hill providing experience on the line. The secondary also has enough experience with a couple seniors in Tre Neal and Kyle Gibson at safety to go with sophomore Brandon Moore at cornerback. The defense may not be as a good, but it still should be one of the better groups in the AAC.
The Knights have a couple difficult Games in the non-Conference with UNC, FAU and Pitt all on the Schedule. It can be argued that those three Games are tougher than the three non-con Games played last year. Making things more difficult in AAC play are the trips to both Memphis and USF, the two teams expected to be the top contenders to UCF in the conference. Otherwise, the AAC Schedule is workable with Navy and SMU the other opponents out of the West division. With Milton, the Knights have the best quarterback in the Conference and that could be enough if the defense proves serviceable. Reaching nine wins won’t be a breeze, though, especially if UCF falls at UNC or even at home against FAU or Pitt early. But at the end of the day, this is still the best team in the AAC and seven Conference wins is a good prediction.
2018 UCF Knights Football Schedule
Aug. 30 at Connecticut
Sept. 8 vs. South Carolina State
Sept. 15 at North Carolina
Sept. 21 vs. Florida Atlantic
Sept. 29 vs. Pittsburgh
Oct. 6 vs. SMU
Oct. 13 at Memphis
Oct. 20 at East Carolina
Nov. 1 vs. Temple
Nov. 10 vs. Navy
Nov. 17 vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 23 at South Florida