UCF ended last year’s underachieving season with a blowout victory against UTEP, 31-14. This season, the Knights will make the long trip out west to El Paso, Texas to take on the Miners.
What to look for
Quarterback Blake Bortles played the majority of the game but was asked to merely manage the offense, completing nine of 12 passes for 158 yards.
The Knights hope there is a different Bortles this season. UCF is a running team that features a stable of three backs that are one of the better groups in the nation. The next area for the Knights to elevate to the upper echelon of Conference USA, and for that matter, the nation, is quarterback play. Bortles must light up the Miners.
Last season, Latavius Murray dominated the game, carrying the ball 21 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Murray continued his tear in the passing game, catching two balls for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Against weaker teams on paper such as UTEP, good quarterbacks should have field days. The Knights have the weapons to field a dangerous offensive threat. While the majority of the receivers are young and lacking experience, they have all the tools and the depth to be a dynamic group.
UCF knows that it had great success running versus UTEP last season, but it will hold that as a pocket ace and give the passing game a chance to start fast. If the offense stalls early, the Knights can always return to the ground game.
Barring injury, the three-headed monster of Storm Johnson, Brynn Harvey and Murray should all have fresh legs this late in the season, despite head coach George O’Leary’s run-first tendencies.
Depending on how the season goes, this could also become a dangerous trap game.
If the Knights live up to Phil Steele’s prediction of being the best non-automatic qualifier team, they should be ranked at this point in the season, and they should be ranked relatively high if that. Some might not agree with Steele’s assessment, but it is still a possibility to think about. UCF will be a good team, and barring another collapse, it should be looking to clinch bowl eligibility at the very worst. The Knights have a great chance to do that in this very game.
Look for the Knights to roll in this game and look to finish strong in their last two games in C-USA.