Defense-first team makes UCF C-USA’s ugly duckling
Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 17:08
If I had to choose any children's story character to metaphorically represent UCF's 2011 football team, I would have plenty of options. I could choose Prince Charming, a daring hero who saves the princess; Robin Hood, a valiant man who steals from the rich and gives to the poor; or maybe, if I was feeling pessimistic, Humpty Dumpty, a klutz who falls from a great height and can never be put back together.
But I think UCF is the ugly duckling.
That's right, I said it. UCF is the ugly duckling. But in my twisted college football fairy tale, being the ugly duckling is a great thing.
Amidst Conference USA's lineup of high-flying offenses (Houston, East Carolina, Southern Methodist, to name a few) the Knights' old-school, defense-first mentality sticks out like a sore thumb. That contrasting style of play has only won the team two C-USA titles since 2007.
Not too shabby for your grandpa's playbook.
In 2010, UCF, a team that only lost one conference game, was ranked fifth in C-USA in scoring offense. This may not seem too high for the conference champions, but the key stat in the Knights' success was scoring defense. The defensive unit only allowed 17.1 points per game in an offense-dominated conference. No one came close to the Knights in defense. The No. 2-ranked scoring defense was SMU, which trailed UCF by a whopping 8.5 points allowed.
It's plain to see why the team succeeded last year, but despite what all of the so-called experts say, the 2011 team is even more primed to dominate C-USA. All you have to do is evaluate the team to see why.
There is no doubt about this team's strengths and weaknesses.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights boast a skilled secondary. Actually, skilled is an understatement. This secondary, with their speed, experience and raw talent, is making it hard for opposing offensive coordinators to sleep at night. Putting pressure on the opposing quarterback will be another strength of the Knights.
The defensive line remains stable, despite the loss of fan-favorite Bruce Miller to the NFL, thanks to pass-rushing specialists Darius Nall and Troy Davis. The biggest question mark on the defense is at the linebacker position. While very talented, the linebackers are a bit thin on experience and depth.
On the offensive side, this team will have no problems running the football. UCF is returning four rushers who have accounted for 10 or more rushing touchdowns in their last season of play. This is a huge stat. Besides UCF, only Wisconsin had three players rush for 10 or more touchdowns last season. With this rushing attack, even the Knights' thin receiving corps won't be able to slow the offense down.
So there it is. UCF is a team with a strong rushing attack and pass defense. But will the weak points of the team outweigh the strengths? No way. Why? Because UCF is the ugly duckling, of course.
Picking UCF to win C-USA is as simple as looking at both sides' strengths and weaknesses. As a whole, the conference is known for being pass happy and posting huge offensive numbers. Well, the Knights have the strongest secondary in the conference. But can they score? Of course. Quarterback Jeff Godfrey will have even less pressure to produce this year with a stronger running game.
Looking at things this way can obviously be flawed. It's hard to generalize the conference into one category and say UCF rules. And besides, it only takes one team (Southern Miss, maybe?) to beat UCF and take its spot in the title game.
But the season looks bright for the Knights, and you can't argue with this lineup. The Knights are stacked.
George O'Leary and the coaching staff clearly subscribe to the line of thinking that defense and a consistent running game wins championships.
Last time I checked, UCF has both.