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HTS 2020: Central Florida

Much like Florida State is younger than you’d think, Central Florida is older than you might think.

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl - Central Florida v Marshall
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

I’d make a joke that I should have had one of these written for the 2017 season, but then I realized that was before this column started. Oops. So, for a second week in a row, we’re writing this one from scratch.

Central Florida Knights

Opponent Background:

  • Conference: American Athletic Conference (2013 - present)
  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • All-time Record: 265-213-1 (.554)
  • Home Stadium: Bounce House (Capacity: 44,206; Ed. note: yes, this is the official name now)
  • National Championships: 1 — 2017*
    Note: Alabama beat the School in Athens in the College Football Playoff in 2017
  • College Football Playoff Appearances: N/A
  • New Year’s Six Bowl Games: 3 — (Peach: 1 - 2017 Fiesta: 2 - 2013, 2018)
  • Conference Championships: 6 — (C-USA: 2007, 2008 AAC: 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018)
  • Division Championships: 6 — (2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014)
  • 2017 Season Record: 10 - 3 (6 - 2 AAC)

Past Results:

  • Team Head-to-Head Record: 3-0-0 (1.000)
  • Recent Meetings:
  • 1996 - 27-20 Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
  • 1999 - 41-10 Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
  • 2000 - 21-17 Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
  • Coach Head-to-Head Record: 0-1-0 (.000)
  • Tech record against Central Florida in this week’s venue: 3-0-0 (1.000)

2020 Football Schedule

2020 Football Schedule

Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Attendence
Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Attendence
September 12 3:30 p.m. (ABC) @ Florida State Atlantic Coast 11-14-1 Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL 16-13 W (1 - 0) 17,538
September 19 3:30 p.m. (ABC) UCF American Athletic 3-1-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 21-49 L (1 - 1) 11,000
September 26 12:00 p.m. (RSNs) @ Syracuse Atlantic Coast 3-1-0 Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY 20-37 L (1 - 2) 0
October 9 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) Louisville Atlantic Coast 1-0-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 46-27 W (2 - 2) 11,000
October 17 12:00 p.m. (ABC) Clemson Atlantic Coast 50-32-2 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA [REDACTED] L (2 - 3) 11,000
October 24 4:00 p.m. (ACCN) @ Boston College Atlantic Coast 7-2-0 Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA 27-48 L (2 - 4) 0
October 31 3:30 p.m. (ABC) Notre Dame Atlantic Coast 6-28-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
November 14 Pittsburgh Atlantic Coast 5-9-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
November 21 @ Miami (FL) Atlantic Coast 13-12-0 Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
November 28 Duke Atlantic Coast 51-35-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
December 5 @ NC State Atlantic Coast 20-10-0 Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
2020 Georgia Tech Football Schedule Arranged by Jake Grant

The Dark Knights Rise

I liken the story of Central Florida to the character arc of Christian Bale/Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But, that seems more of a Stephen or Akshay thing to run full course (Editor Akshay’s note: don’t tempt me), so I’ll spare myself belaboring the point and spare you my contrived comparison. Let’s dive into when they were a plucky upstart.

The University of Central Florida was founded in 1963 as Florida Technical University, not to be confused with the Florida Institute of Technology or Florida Polytechnic, which used to be a branch of South Florida. Sidenote - why do so many more divisions of USF flee being involved with that school than UCF? Another ripple in the fascinatingly spicy history of the history of higher education in the state of Florida.

By 1979, the relatively young institution decided, quite aptly, that spooling up a college athletics program, specifically college football, would raise the school’s profile nationally and in drawing students to Orlando. Starting in Division III, they managed to draw healthy crowds to the cavernous Tangerine Bowl for home games, despite being a relatively young school playing unknown teams. Though a common refrain seems to be that Florida State is similarly a relatively young upstart team in college football terms, they are also more than 30 years older in their modern incarnation and have roots to the 1900s, before the Buckman Act segregated and de-coeducated the schools. The Seminoles also started in Division I, whereas the Knights, with their awesome Citronaut mascot, since replaced with Knightro, a golden knight, toiled doing layman’s work at the DIII level, then the DII level after 1982. After that initially successful start, the Knights didn’t record another winning season for seven years, though would peak at a top ranking in the DII level before moving on to what is now the FCS level of DI football. In their first season, 1990, they would become the first program to qualify for the FCS playoffs in their first year of eligibility. By 1996, they would find themselves at their current level, the top tier of DI football.

It’s hard not to tell the story of Central Florida without at least a casual gander at the rest of the state’s higher education. By nature, the comparisons are most often drawn to the school’s fiercest rival, the University of South Florida. On some levels, their stories are similar. The two were both products of the post-war boom in attention and money for Florida’s starved public institutions. Whereas the Tampa school was founded in 1956, its sister schools in Boca Raton (1961), Pensacola and Orlando (1963), Miami (1965) weren’t really that far behind. It’s rather shocking, but, outside of the state capital, home to two institutions, and the swampy outpost of Gainesville, there was no public higher education after the assorted schools were swept away in 1905, much less ones in the state’s major population centers. For the record, Jacksonville (1972) and Fort Myers (1991) would follow later. Anyways, South Florida also began its tenure in a stadium much too large of its actual needs and made the jump to FBS football right around the turn of the millennium. It also saw a dramatic and well-publicized spike in football prowess. However, there’s two key differences in this story that set apart the black and gold boys from Orlando.

  1. They have their own stadium. This isn’t a small detail. It’s surely helps them harness the power of their absolutely massive enrollment better than when they had to drive into the Citrus Bowl, considering the school is a third of the way to Cape Canaveral. And while this location is convenient for hopping a quick cruise, you know, as college kids do (Side note: do UCF kids take offseason cruises on Fall Break? If so, that’s kind of genius), shooting off rockets (which was on purpose) or heading out to Cocoa Beach, it’s not all the useful for transporting thousands of college kids to a football game on the other side of downtown.
  2. They have a national championship, and flags fly forever. Just see our four, which people like to conveniently forget. No matter what dubious or roundabout logic applies - I myself am a believer that Tech could have had a decent shot at them in that 2017 season, were it not for the hurricane - they were still awarded one for reasons less dubious than some of Alabama’s claims, or like Oklahoma State claiming a title in 2016...for a 1945 season that saw one of the greatest teams ever assembled (Army) destroy every thing in their path. Including fascism!

This is why Central Florida, for all their uppity reputation, probably isnt going away. Sure, there will be down years in every program, but with the obvious push for athletics as the front porch to the university, massive and growing academic program, and institutional emphasis on the link between the two, the Knights are essentially the vehicle the mission is mounted on. And this is when an appreciated and cheered-for vigilante becomes the unwelcome disrupter of the status quo. See earlier Batman analogy.

In the meantime, Tech and Central Florida squared off three times in those early years. Long before he was a statue-worthy legend in Orlando, he was a great coach on the Flats, and those George O’Leary teams went 3-0 against their guests - all three games were played in Atlanta. The highlight win of the trio was certainly the 41-10 stomping the 1999 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets gave the Knights. While everyone remembers the transcendent offensive performance of the game (and season) anchored by Joe Hamilton and drawn up by Ralph Friedgen, fewer remember that the lockdown defense was brought to you by none other than defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Small world.

Central Florida has a really big chip on their shoulder. You know how Tech fans get when we know basketball or baseball or even football deserves more credit than it gets for something? Or how we insist the media has it out for us because the Coaches Poll will without a doubt rank Tech higher every time? Or that the ACC schedule/rules/decision/etc. is biased against Tech? I assume that’s what it’s like for the folks in Orlando, but all the time, and about basically everything.

Tomorrow, Tech can quiet their chirping at least a little bit.

Tomorrow, Tech opens the home slate of the 2020 season by hosting Central Florida. Tune in to watch on ABC, or it can be heard over the airwaves in the usual suspects, 680 AM / 93.7 FM and the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Radio Network. With the appearance of the historical matchup preview, that means it’s noon on Friday, and that concludes From the Rumble Seat’s regularly scheduled pregame content. Tune in tomorrow starting at 6:00 AM for How to Watch continuing through the gameday thread and the postgame recap. Go Jackets!