Looking forward: Previewing the 2012 season: Week Three — FIU Panthers
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 16:06
The UCF Knights’ first opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of their home fans in 2012 comes against new rival FIU.
Last season, the Panthers outlasted UCF, 17-10, in a highly competitive game in Miami. It was the first loss of a 2011 campaign that had started well and carried the highest of expectations.
What to look for
FIU’s challenge offensively in 2012 will be finding a way to replace standout receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton was one of the nation’s most dynamic all-around players in 2011, accounting for more than 1,100 yards as a receiver and runner, also contributing as a returner.
Returning as a key starter for the Panthers is running back Kedrick Rhodes. Rhodes scored eight touchdowns while rushing for more than 1,100 yards as a sophomore.
Look for new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey, who has worked under Oregon’s Chip Kelly, to install a fast-paced spread option similar to that run by Kelly’s Ducks. This could cause problems for the Knights if they are unable to get substitutes on and off the field.
A fast-paced spread rushing attack will benefit the talents of the shifty Rhodes.
The Panthers also will be looking for a new starting quarterback, as Wesley Carroll graduated. Look for whoever is under center for the Panthers to be an athlete with the ability to run.
The key for UCF in the game will be to protect Blake Bortles. In last season’s matchup, FIU sacked Jeff Godfrey six times. The Panthers were 15th nationally in sacks last season and 14th in scoring defense. FIU returns 10 of 11 defensive starters.
This being UCF’s only matchup with an in-state rival, a win is crucial for recruiting and program growth. With such a limited opportunity to make a name for themselves in the state, the Knights can no longer accept a “good effort” as a successful game.
By this point in the season, Bortles should be comfortable in the offense, especially coming off a game against a tough Ohio State defense. FIU shouldn’t be able to show him anything that Ohio State didn’t already. Storm Johnson should have his game legs back under him by Game Three, and the defensive core should be established.
Anticipate a close game where whichever team can establish their passing game will win. Both teams will make every attempt to establish the running game and both teams notoriously stop the run.
Games two through four on UCF’s schedule set up as a brutal stretch for any team in college football — traveling to Ohio State, then playing an in-state rival and then playing a tough out-of-conference opponent in Missouri is as tough as any stretch in program history.