Bull-Run: After the tough loss to NC State, where do you see the season going and how important is a win at Buffalo for UCF in the grand scheme of things?
Knights Notepad: The UCF coaches and players were disappointed by the loss to N.C. State because unforced errors played a huge role in the team’s loss. However, the Knights did likely find a new starting quarterback in true freshman Jeff Godfrey. He energized the team and the home crowd when he entered the game and led a late UCF rally. The players remain confident in the talent they have on both sides of the ball and have high hopes of winning a Conference USA championship. The Buffalo game is very important to UCF. The Knights’ roster includes 18 seniors, and they wanted to go undefeated this season. With that goal out of reach, they have shifted their focus on posting a 13-1 record. I think two consecutive losses would be demoralizing for the players.
Bull Run: Are there any huge changes in how UCF does things this season over last or is coach George O'Leary just doing the same thing?
Knights Notepad: Godfrey is a versatile quarterback who infuses the team with energy. Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe is working to add more and more of his playbook each week, but it will depend on how much Godfrey can execute. Taaffe is working on distributing the ball to a wide variety of athletes on offense. The team has a talented wide receiver rotation and has a starting running back in Jonathan Davis with the potential to make big plays.
The defense and special teams units are pretty consistent from last year. The Knights are lighter at defensive tackle, but their defensive line is faster and has performed well so far this season. The secondary has more experience and has been able to do a much better job against the pass. While UCF had a strong run defense last year, the passing defense was among the bottom third in the country. So far this season, UCF is ranked No. 8 nationally in passing defense and No. 13 in total defense.
Bull Run: Putting aside the five turnovers against N.C. State, what is the one thing that the Knights need to work on?
Knights Notepad: The offensive line needs to do a better job of sustaining blocks. The pocket collapsed often and UCF struggled to establish its rushing attack against N.C. State, setting up many of those costly turnovers.
Bull Run: Assuming that you were a paid advisor what would you suggest UB on offense and defense do to pull off the upset (where can UCF be beaten)?
Knights Notepad: N.C. State exposed UCF’s biggest weaknesses. If you overwhelm the UCF offensive line, force turnovers and score off those turnovers, it’s tough for the Knights to win.
Bull Run: Do you think the body of work UCF has put together is enough to catch the eye of the Big East? With the news that Villanova has an invite, how concerned are Knights fans?
Knights Notepad: UCF has a lot of qualities Big East officials like as they consider expansion – media market size, enrollment, location in hot recruiting territory, university investment in both academics and athletics and potential for growth. I don’t think UCF fans are especially concerned about the Big East encouraging Villanova to move up to Football Bowl Subdivision status so that it can join the Big East in football. The Villanova movement would be the easiest way for the Big East to solve its football scheduling issues without expanding to a 17-team conference in all sports. UCF, East Carolina and Memphis aren’t interested in joining the Big East as football members only, so it’s tough for the Big East to find ways to add nine football playing members to provide a balanced schedule for each team without offending basketball members that feel 16 teams already is huge for a conference. Currently, Big East football schools have five nonconference games and on alternating years only host three conference games. Most schools want at least seven home games during a season, which means in alternating years four of their nonconference games must be at home. It is getting more and more expensive for Big East schools to schedule those nonconference home games.
The Big East has made it clear that it would only consider expanding to 17 teams in all sports if it means a huge increase in television revenue. I’m talking about a school the size of Penn State or Notre Dame bringing in multi-million dollar media rights. However, if the Big East needs to replace a team in the future due to conference realignment, UCF is among the top candidates on its list. I think most UCF fans understand where the school stands and hope conference expansion continues in December, this time having a bigger impact on schools in the eastern part of the country.