All the trials and tribulations of Knights’ training camp are about to pay off as UCF hosts FIU tomorrow at 6 p.m. in its season opener.
The team returns two receivers who saw game action: Jordan Akins and Taylor Oldham. Akins led the two with 135 yards on 12 receptions in last year’s campaign.
Experience still resides within the offensive line, running back and quarterback positions, though.
William Stanback rushed for 697 yards and scored 12 total touchdowns, Justin Holman threw for 2,952 yards and 23 touchdowns a season ago and fifth-year senior Joey Grant returns to the center position.
The Knights will look to Shaquill Griffin, Drico Johnson and D.J. Killings to fill gaps in the secondary. Griffin and Johnson played all 13 games last season, while Killings saw action in eight. T.J. Mutcherson, an Iowa State transfer, looks to make an impact on defense. He recorded 76 tackles as a starting safety last season.
Thomas Niles led last year’s defense with 7.5 sacks, pushing his career total to 16.5. Sophomore Jamiyus Pittman also returns after recording 18 tackles and two sacks during his true freshman season.
Chequan Burkett has the most experience at the linebacker position with 40 tackles and 1.5 sacks in eight starts last season. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan may also look to Domenic Spencer, Maurice Russell, Mark Rucker and Errol Clarke, who saw playing time last season.
Total offense in 2014: 363.1 yards per game (103rd in FBS)
Total defense in 2014: 298.5 yards per game (fifth in FBS)
UCF vs. FIU
Thursday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.
FIU’s total offense in 2014: 293.2 yards per game (123rd in FBS)
FIU’s total defense in 2014: 363.8 yards per game (36th in FBS)
Thursday night will be the fourth game against FIU (4-8, 3-5 in C-USA in 2014) in school history. UCF holds a 2-1 advantage, outscoring the Panthers 81-37 all time since the series kicked off in 2011.
The teams last met in 2013 when the Knights’ offense carried them to a 38-0 victory, running for 165 yards and four touchdowns. During the game, Holman also threw his first collegiate passes, going 2-for-2 for 11 yards.
If the Knights win Thursday, it will be their eighth-consecutive home-opening victory. They are currently 7-1 in home openers since moving to Bright House Networks Stadium in 2007. The lone home-opener loss in BHNS was a 35-32 loss to No. 6 Texas in 2007.
A victory would also extend UCF’s home-game winning streak to 11, tying for the most consecutive in school history. The Knights are currently No. 7 in best winning percentages for schools in their current stadiums (40-11, .784 winning percentage).
With 1,982,264 fans who have walked through the gate at BHNS, one fan will be the 2 millionth on Thursday.
Look for running backs Stanback and Dontravious Wilson to have big games on the ground.
UCF @ Stanford
Saturday, Sept. 12 at 10:30 p.m.
Stanford’s total offense in 2014: 388.6 yards per game (77th in FBS)
Stanford’s total defense in 2014: 282.4 yards per game (third in FBS)
In the inaugural contest against the Cardinal (8-5, 5-4 in Pac-12 in 2014), the Knights will travel to California for the first time in their second Pac-12 game in program history (since 1979).
UCF dropped its first Pac-12 game to Arizona State in 2002, losing 46-13 in The Grand Canyon State.
The second game may be a big test for the Knights as they went 3-2 in road games last season.
Look for defensive end Niles and defensive back Griffin to provide a steady defense in what will likely be a tough, low scoring road game.
UCF vs. Furman
Saturday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.
Furman’s total offense in 2014: N/A (Furman is an FCS team)
Furman’s total defense in 2014: N/A
After a one-game road trip to the West Coast, the Knights will return to Bright House Networks Stadium to host the Furman Paladins (3-9, 2-5 in SoCon in 2014).
The last time the Knights played an FCS opponent was in 2014. They thrashed then-No. 12 Bethune-Cookman, 41-7, as Stanback rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
The only time the teams have faced off was in 1984. The Paladins pummeled the Knights, 42-6, in the contest.
Look for Stanback to have another breakout game.
UCF @ South Carolina
Saturday, Sept. 26 at TBD
South Carolina’s total offense in 2014: 443.4 yards per game (35th in FBS)
South Carolina’s total defense in 2014: 432.7 yards per game (94th in FBS)
In four games between the Knights and Gamecocks (7-6, 3-5 in SEC in 2014), all have gone in favor of the latter.
The last time the teams met was in 2013 when the Knights suffered their lone loss of the season, 28-25, in the Fiesta Bowl-winning run. Blake Bortles threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns and two receivers recorded 100-plus yards.
South Carolina has outscored UCF, 118-85, all time.
Look for quarterback Holman and wide receiver Akins to have big games through the air.
UCF @ Tulane
Saturday, Oct. 3 at TBD
Tulane’s total offense in 2014: 346.8 yards per game (110th in FBS)
Tulane’s total defense in 2014: 387.8 yards per game (56th in FBS)
After four non-conference games, the Knights will open up American Athletic Conference play in Louisiana when they will take on former Conference USA foe the Green Wave (3-9, 2-6 in AAC in 2014).
Since UCF’s first contest with Tulane in 2001, it has amassed a 5-1 series record, outscoring the Green Wave 209-90.
Last year’s game ended closely, as the Knights escaped with a 20-13 victory. Holman finished 9-for-17 with 113 yards and a touchdown while Stanback and Wilson combined for 96 rushing yards and a score.
Look for the two backs and Holman to have an impactful game.
UCF vs. Connecticut
Saturday, Oct. 10 at TBD
Connecticut’s total offense in 2014: 276.3 yards per game (126th in FBS)
Connecticut’s total defense in 2014: 378.6 yards per game (50th in FBS)
The UConn-dubbed Civil Conflict reignites as the Knights host the Huskies (2-10, 1-7 in AAC in 2014) in the second of eight-consecutive conference games.
Since the emergence of the AAC, the Knights have only lost one conference game: last year’s 37-29 road loss to UConn. Last year’s contest was also Connecticut’s only win against an FBS team.
The overall series is tied, 1-1, but the Knights have outscored the Huskies 91-54, largely in part of 2013’s 62-17 victory at home.
Stanback rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and Akins caught two passes for 31 yards in last year’s loss.
Look for those two to be key assets in the second edition of the Civil Conflict.
UCF @ Temple
Saturday, Oct. 17 at TBD
Temple’s total offense in 2014: 308.4 yards per game (120th in FBS)
Temple’s total defense in 2014: 347.1 yards per game (24th in FBS)
The Knights travel to Philadelphia to take on the Owls (6-6, 4-4 in AAC in 2014) in their seventh game of the season.
Last year, UCF won 34-14 at home behind quarterback Holman’s 336-yard, two-touchdown passing attack.
The Knights hold the overall series record, 2-0, and have outscored the Owls 73-50.
Look for Holman to connect with Akins and Tre’Quan Smith, attacking the defense through the air.
UCF vs. Houston
Saturday, Oct. 24 at TBD
Houston’s total offense in 2014: 414.1 yards per game (58th in FBS)
Houston’s total defense in 2014: 343.4 yards per game (20th in FBS)
The Cougars (8-5, 5-3 in AAC in 2014) return as the Knights’ homecoming opponent again.
In the past two meetings, the Knights have won by a total of 10 points, with both games coming down to last-minute Cougar drives. Former safety Brandon Alexander was there to break up game-winning touchdowns in each of the last Cougar possessions.
The Knights have the advantage in the series, 5-1 record, but have only outscored the Cougars 175-170.
Look for cornerback Griffin and safety Drico Johnson — both played in all 13 games last season — to have big games in the secondary-intense battle.
UCF @ Cincinnati
Saturday, Oct. 31 at TBD
Cincinnati’s total offense in 2014: 460.2 yards per game (29th in FBS)
Cincinnati’s total defense in 2014: 439.1 yards per game (98th in FBS)
The Knights will travel to Ohio for the first-ever contest against the co-AAC champion Bearcats (9-4, 7-1 in AAC in 2014).
Last season, UCF and Cincinnati shared six opponents: Houston, Tulane, Temple, Connecticut, SMU and USF. And the only discrepancy between the win-loss records was UCF’s conference loss to UConn.
Look for the Knights’ young secondary to make big plays in yet another difficult road test.
UCF @ Tulsa
Saturday, Nov. 7 at TBD
Tulsa’s total offense in 2014: 412.5 yards per game (59th in FBS)
Tulsa’s total defense in 2014: 486.8 yards per game (117th in FBS)
The Golden Hurricane (2-10, 2-6 in AAC in 2014) own a 5-3 series record over the Knights, but UCF has outscored Tulsa by just two points all time, 230-228.
In last year’s contest, the Knights ran away with a 31-7 victory. Wilson and Stanback combined for 150 yards and a score on the ground while Holman threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
The Knights have a history with the Golden Hurricane, as they have met in three C-USA championship games since 2005.
Look for Holman, Stanback and Wilson to have big games.
UCF vs. East Carolina
Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
East Carolina’s total offense in 2014: 533.0 yards per game (fifth in FBS)
East Carolina’s total defense in 2014: 367.3 yards per game (38th in FBS)
After Holman’s game-winning, 51-yard touchdown pass into triple coverage last season, the Pirates (8-5, 5-3 in AAC in 2014) look to exact their revenge.
Dating back to 1991, the teams have met 13 times and nine of those games side with ECU. The Pirates have also outscored the Knights 370-309.
Stanback rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns while Holman threw for 274 yards and a score in last year’s contest.
Look for both of these players to make a big impact in the nationally televised game.
UCF vs. USF
Thursday, Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
USF’s total offense in 2014: 304.7 yards per game (121st in FBS)
USF’s total defense in 2014: 402.8 yards per game (71st in FBS)
The War on I-4 returns during rivalry week as the Knights host the Bulls (4-8, 3-5 in AAC in 2014) in a Thanksgiving Day showdown.
Despite winning the last two games against the Bulls, UCF is 2-4 all-time against USF and have been outscored 170-106.
In a 16-0 win last season, the Knights scored two touchdowns on 295 yards of total offense.
Depending on how the rest of the season goes, this game could be strictly about pride.
Look for Stanback to have a big game to redeem make up for the missed matchup last season as he was out with an injury.
Victor Ng is a Senior Staff Writer for Central Florida Future.