Everything that could have gone wrong for the UCF Knights in 2015 did. After going 31-9 over their previous 3 seasons, the Knights didn’t win a single game. Finishing up at 0-12.
Just two seasons prior they were the talk of the small conferences at 12-1. That included a 52-42 win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
It was bad enough that head coach George O’Leary, in his 12th season, was let go after 7 games. UCF will begin a new era under Scott Frost, who spent the last 7 seasons with Oregon. He played a big role in the Duck’s fast paced offense and will try to bring that to Orlando.
Expectations are not going to be that high in 2016, even with 17 starters coming back. The problem is that most of those aren’t a great fit for the new schemes being installed. The biggest goal this year is to build something for next year and keep improving during the season.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/3||South Carolina St|
|10/1||@ East Carolina|
|11/26||@ South Florida|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
The good news for UCF is the losing streak doesn’t figure to linger into 2016. That’s because the Knights open with South Carolina State at home.
Things don’t look so promising in game number two, as they have to travel to Michigan. They conclude non-conference play with two winnable games. First they host Maryland and then travel to FIU.
As for the American portion of the schedule, there are some favorable matchups in there. They have to go on the road two face two of the teams in Houston and South Florida. However, the other two road contests are winnable against East Carolina and Connecticut.
The four AAC home games are against Tulane, Temple, Cincinnati and Tulsa. Hard to imagine them knocking off either the Owls or Bearcats, but the other two are up for grabs.
It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly Frost can turn around the offense. UCF has 10 starters back, the only exception being right guard Tarik Cook.
The problem is the offense was non-existent in 2015. UCF managed a mere 13.9 ppg and 268 ypg. They couldn’t run the ball (81.0 ypg) and their quarterbacks had a 13-23 TD to INT ratio.
All signs point to senior Justin Holman being the starting quarterback. There is reason to be optimistic that Holman can shine under Frost. Last year he completed just 51% of his passes for 1,379 yards with 7 TD’s to 14 INT’s.
The thing to keep in mind is he was injured in the second game against Stanford and missed 3 games. He was never really the same after that injury. The talent is there, as he completed 64% of his passes for 2,952 yards with 23 touchdowns in 2014.
Even if Holman returns to his sophomore form, the offense is going to struggle if they don’t run it better. They had just 975 yards as a team last year. No player averaged more than 3.6 yards/carry. The unit returns in tact, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
One of the few bright spots from last year was the play of freshmen wide outs Tre’Quan Smith and Tristan Payton. Smith really shined, catching a team-high 52 passes for 724 yards and 4 scores. Payton was second on the team with 21 catches for 264 yards. Joining these two will be highly touted true freshman Dredrick Snelson.
Not only did the offense take a turn for the worse, the defense imploded in 2015. UCF went from giving up 19.2 ppg and 299 ypg in 2014, to allowing 37.7 ppg and 464 ypg.
With 7 starters back on this side of the ball, you have to believe there is going to be some improvement. At the same time, they will be introducing a new system. They also lose leading tackler Domenic Spencer, whose 104 tackles was 40 more than the next best.
The Knights will run a 3-4 scheme and do have a key piece returning in 300 lb. junior defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman. He will anchor the middle of the defense and must play well.
At linebacker, they get back their two starters inside in Chequan Burkett and Demeitre Brim. They key will be finding two new starters to take over on the outside.
One of the problems last year is all four starters in the secondary had to be replaced. The inexperienced unit in 2015 allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.4% of their attempts. This time all four starters are back and major improvements should be made.
Regular Season Win Total
AAC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
More times than not a team that is undergoing a major coaching change like UCF, is going to struggle in year one. I believe that will be the case in 2016, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Frost got this team to exceed expectations.
Oddsmakers seem to think he can turn it around quickly. It’s not very often you see a team go 0-12 and have a win total of 5 the next year.
While I’m on board with a big jump in the win column, I think 4-8 is a more realistic mark for this team. I think they can go 2-2 in non-conference and pick up two more wins inside the conference.
American Athletic (East)
American Athletic Record
Win Total Prediction