There are few games that can change the direction of a program forever. This Saturday, UCF has an opportunity that is way more than cracking the AP Top 25. This weekend, the UCF Knights have a chance to open a countries eyes to a school that is not up and coming anymore, but a university and program that has arrived.
Last time the UCF Knights took the field against the Penn State Nittany Lions, they shocked many fans and so-called experts of the football world with an impressive victory in Happy Valley. At noon tomorrow, UCF will have a chance to show it was no fluke and the Knights are here to stay.
Led by their redshirt junior quarterback, Blake Bortles has shown he can make every throw. He has a rare ability to fit the ball into tight spaces and has developed quite an impressive rapport with his receivers, backs and outstanding offensive line. Bortles and his supporting cast dazzled 94,000 fans in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium and the fact is, to beat a top tier, upper echelon school, such as South Carolina, Bortles and his crew will need to be nearly flawless.
Conor Shaw is head coach Steve Spurrier’s signal caller. Shaw, an efficient and accurate quarterback has yet to throw an interception this season. He is also extremely mobile when given space with already over 200 yards rushing this season. The senior quarterback also has two very capable runningbacks in sophomores Mike Davis (45 rushes, 341 yards, 3 TDs) and Brandon Wilds (25 rushes, 109 yards, 1 TD).
The Knights defense will certainly have its hands full all day with this high powered Gamecock offense. It is absolutely crucial for the UCF secondary to improve on its porous performance against Penn State. Although the defense for the Knights is allowing under 300 total yards per game, most of that came against better competition in Happy Valley. With the youth and inexperience in the secondary, it is vital that the front seven get after the quarterback as well as contain a rushing attack that averages more than 200 yards per game. Led by junior linebacker Terrance Plummer, the Knights need to be at their best against what will be their toughest challenge defensively of the season.
The biggest matchup in this game will put UCF’s best offensive linemen, Torrian Wilson, against arguably college football’s best overall player in Jadeveon Clowney. Although Wilson likely will not have one-on-one match ups with Clowney all afternoon, he will definitely be tasked with blocking the All-American defensive end for the better part of the day. If Wilson can at least slow down the NFL-bound pass rusher, Blake Bortles should be able to make some plays down the field. In addition, UCF has been a pass first team thus far this season. If their outstanding receiving corps, led by JJ Worton can get things going early, look for it to open things up for Storm Johnson and the UCF running game. The best way to neutralize a great pass rusher such as Clowney, is to establish the run and wear down the South Carolina front seven.
Some have called tomorrow’s game, the biggest athletic event in UCF history. Although bold, this statement is for the most part very true. Over the past decade UCF has taken so many baby steps to get to this point. The term moral victory has been something of a tradition at the university. Tomorrow, there is no such thing as a moral victory. The Knights will be on national network television for the first time in school history (ABC). It is time for the school and this program to explode onto the scene and what better game or stage than 12 p.m. eastern standard time tomorrow in front of “Zombie Nation” and a sold out UCF crowd? I fully expect UCF and its loudest crowd in years to arrive tomorrow and to do so in dramatic fashion.