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25 Questions: UCF

A post inspired but FalconBlog's weekly 25 questions.

Program:

Where are the Knights at:

Limbo. The problem with barely beating an FCS cream puff and dropping a close game to a favorite to win your division is that when week three rolls around you don't have a clue who you are. Are they the 4-8 team from last season or the 10-4 team from two years ago? UB will be a good measure for the Knights.

Historically speaking there is a lot at stake this season, George O'Leary may not survive a poor showing, anything less than six wins will signal a changing of the guard in Orlando. O'Leary has had the best four year stint at UCF since the school came up to Division 1A in 1996 and it would be a shame for him to be pushed out on the back of a losing season.

Last Seasons High Point:

Being able ability to tailgate and drink early... This year UCF fans will have to wait a few hours later before getting liquored on game day. Aside from tailgating the performance against Memphis, a Bowl team, had to be the best part of the teams season. Winning on the road against a conference rival fighting for an at large bid was no small feat.

Last Seasons Low Point:

The death of Ereck Plancher during spring camp, no amount of pain or loss on the field should be compared to a young man passing before his time. It was a painful moment for all involved and the team never fully recovered the event.

Offense:

Do they take care of the Ball?

They do an average job, this year they have two turnovers in each of their first two games. Last year they averaged just over two turnovers per game placing them tied for sixty ninth nationally. While their number was almost double UB's total from last season so far this year both teams have three fumbles and one interception.

How is their Passing Offense?

They finally have a starting Quarterback, Brett Hodges wins the Knights version of musical chairs and has the task of turning a moribund passing attack into something resembling a division one offense. He has his work cut out for him, right now the Knights are ranked 92nd nationally in passing and that's with one of their games against FCS opponent Samford. Last season the Knights finished 115th nationally.

How is their Rushing Offense?

The Good news is that UCF has a very balanced offense, the bad news is that as stated above their passing game has been awful. Their running game is similarly dismal, right now its the 107th ranked rushing offense in the nation. Personnel wise they are not lacking in the backfield but as a unit they have not produced in 14 games.

How are their receivers?

Its hard to know just how good or bad the receivers are, the offense as a whole was anemic last season (and so far this season). UCF suffered way too many dropped passes in 2008 but that can't be the whole problem.

On the plus side while they lack a marquee wide out they do have big depth. Its supposed to be hot and sticky on Saturday so what they are lacking in skill they will try to make up for by keeping fresh legs on the field.

How about their offensive line?

Usually when a team cant run, or pass, the fault is going to fall on the line, and things are no different for Central Florida. They are young, not incredibly big, and so far unable to make big holes (12 yards rushing against Southern Miss) or keep their Quarterback off of his back (3 sacks given up against Southern Miss).

Are they High Powered?

No, They averaged just over two touchdowns a game against a set of defenses not much more impressive than what the MAC has to offer. If the Bulls can exploit the young offensive line keeping the Knights under 21 is well within reach. This is, quite possibly, the worst offense the Bulls will face this year (counting Miami and Kent).

How Well do they convert on 3rd?

Last season UCF converted less than 30% of third down opportunities. So far this season against the lone FBS opponent they played the Knights went 4-14. A good stop on first down really puts UCF behind the eight ball.

Can their offense close a drive?

Not very well, they score 3/4 times they make it to the red zone, and a quarter of the time they manages to score it's a field goal. Lsat year for every time they set foot inside the 20 they came away with just under four and a half points. Compare that to UB who came away with more than five.

Defense:

How Good is their defense?

On a good day their defense is respectable, the Golden Eagles are a pretty potent offense and UCF did a decent job bottling them up, 253 yards passing is right around the Eagles Average showing. The Knights give up fewer points than would be expected given the yardage opponents rack up but inexplicably Southern Miss gained 400 yards, committed only one turnover and still manged just 26 points. UB should be able to move the ball pretty well on the Knights but they have to close their drives.

Do they take the Ball Away?

No, the Knights have just one takeaway this year, that is way down from last season where they took the ball away more than twice a game. The potential is there for the knights to generate turnovers but so far this season it's not happening.

Can they stop the Run?

Better than UB, Last season they were near the top quarter of run defenses, this year they are performing about the same. The held opponents to 3.4 yards per carry, and teams to 125 yards a game.

Can they stop the Pass?

Despite a young secondary they do an ok job stopping the pass, last season they were 88th in yardage given up, this season they are ranked 55th. Perhaps because of the youth in this years unit they have yet to force an interception this season, last year they averaged one and a half pics per game.

How do they perform on third downs?

Pretty well, this area is the strength of the UCF Knights defense. Last season the stopped opponents about sixty five percent of the time, this year they are pulling similar numbers.

How is their red zone defense?

So far this season they have been fair. They are giving up points a trip which is impressive, but its too early in the year to say if this kind of performance is going to hold. Last season they were a whole point higher.

How well do they get after the QB?

Quarterbacks have had pretty safe going against the Knights in 2009. Just two sacks through two games. Last season the managed two and a half, it's pretty unlikely that their front seven will stay this quiet the whole season.

Do they get after you in the backfield?

This is what they do better than anyone UB will play this season, even Pittsburgh. UCF was the #3 team nationally at tackles for loss and near the top quarter for sacks. They have no lost too much talent among their starting front seven so they have the potential to make life very difficult for Maynard and the Running game.

Special Teams:

How is their return game?

Stellar, they are ranked third nationally in kickoff returns and have dangerous punt return weapon in the person of Rocky Ross. UCF has three different players who have returned kickoff at least 70 yards this year (McDuffie 95, Newsome 89 and Baldwin 72).

How well do they defend returns?

Just as well as they return them. The Knights are ranked second nationally in punt return defense (-0.67), and seventh in kickoff return defense(14.71). The Bulls are going to have to be very disciplined on special teams if they want to avoid giving UCF too many short fields.

How well do they Kick?

Pretty well, Nick Cattoi is 2/2 for field goals on the year, including a fifty yarder against Southern Miss.

How Well do they Punt?

Nothing special, Blake Clingan is ranked 67th (37.9 yards per punt) nationally but when your punt coverage unit keeps opponents to negative yardage how good do you really have to be?

How does UCF do against the MAC?

Since leaving the MAC in 2005 the Knights have not yet played any teams from the Mid American Conference. They had some success in the MAC itself initially but the program bottomed out about the same time they bolted for Conference USA.

How Big is this game for Each Team?

For both practical and emotional reasons its probably bigger for UCF than it is Buffalo. For UCF a loss here puts them at 1-2 with two home games out of the way and their only win being over an FCS school, this would be a pretty big hole to dig themselves out of. The loss to Buffalo almost guarantees a 1-3 out of conference record (they Have Miami(Fla) and Texas left) meaning they have to win five of their seven remaining conference games just to break even on the year.

UCF would also hate to lose, at home, to a team from the MAC whom was known to their fans as a bottom feeder (2004). The Knights left the MAC in part because they felt they were 'too good' for the conference so if UB goes into their house and puts them down the calls for a coaching change may become too loud to ignore.

For UB this win would set them on a path for a 3-1 out of conference record, with Miami and Kent on the docket UB would only have to two games from BGSU, Ohio, Temple, CMU or WMU to finish seven and five, almost certainly getting a Bowl Bid. Given the Quality of competition getting three of these might prove difficult.