UCF can have a good season, but not good enough
Published: Sunday, September 25, 2011
Updated: Sunday, September 25, 2011 17:09
Take a second to comprehend how much things can change in 15 days.
Sunday morning two weeks ago the UCF Knights woke up 2-0. Not only were they 2-0, but they had outscored their opponents in their first two games, Charleston Southern and Boston College, 92-3.
UCF was just outside of the Top 25 and with all the conference realignment going on, the program seemed to be in a prime position.
Fifteen days later, a lot has changed.
The Knights have given away consecutive games. Turnovers and miscues have led directly to 28 points in the past two weeks. Against FIU, a fumble was returned for a touchdown and a muffed punt deep in UCF territory led directly to another touchdown.
Against BYU, a breakdown in kickoff coverage led to BYU's first kick return for a touchdown in 13 years. Then, an eerily similar muffed punt situation again led to an easy touchdown for the Cougars.
Now, the Knights have dropped consecutive games, something they didn't do at all last season. They're 2-2, and saying that they're off the national radar is probably an understatement.
But you want to know the worst part? The worst part is for a program that is truly in need of casual fans, the past two weeks couldn't have gone worse.
You see, UCF has this very loyal, enthusiastic fan base. And it's not exactly small, but it's not exactly enough to fill Bright House Networks Stadium. The program needs the support of casual fans, the ones who don't bleed black and gold.
To be frank, UCF is out trying to gain the support of people who already have a favorite team. Head coach George O'Leary has alluded to it before, trying to get the support of Gator and Seminoles fans by asking why they can't be "Gator-Knights."
Unfortunately, the sell on the "hometown team" is a lot tougher when the team is giving away games.
Add in a bye week and the beginning of a conference slate with a bunch of teams casual fans haven't heard of or don't respect, and all the momentum built after last season, UCF's best season, is in jeopardy.
It's an unfair burden to the players, seemingly having to play for more than wins or losses. Often, with all the speculation swirling around the program, it sort of feels like they're out there trying to play UCF's way into a BCS conference.
How fair is that? But when you have a program that wants so badly to crack the big time, there's no avoiding it.
Truth is, this UCF team can, and likely will, still have a good season. Giving away games, by definition, means you were good enough to win but found a way to not.
Heck, if they rattle off eight straight wins in conference play, this could still be called a great season. But whether or not fans respect Conference USA or the teams that play in it, that doesn't change the fact that there are some tough tests still ahead of the Knights and that the teams in the league will come to play each week.
This team should have all the motivation it needs over the next two weeks and open conference play with a bang. Don't be surprised if the Knights take seven of eight conference games.
Still, winning all eight would be extremely tough, especially when you look at consecutive road games against East Carolina and Southern Miss.
Though at 2-2 right now, a 9-3 season is still in the cards, and that would be a good season. There's a lot of football left and a chance for the Knights to still turn some heads this season.
Maybe that's what will happen. Maybe the Knights come out of their bye week, correct the mental errors that have plagued them the past two weeks and are great the rest of the season.
Because there is a pretty good chance they'll still be good.
But this season, more than any other, good just might not be good enough.