Now that it’s bowl week, we want to start taking a deeper look at Georgia Tech’s opponent in the Gasparilla Bowl: the UCF Knights. Today we start by taking a surface-level look at how the Knights did. Later this week, we’ll dig into the stats a little more.
This year was UCF’s first season in the Big 12 after several successful seasons in the AAC. Coming into the season, it was reasonably concluded that UCF might be able to compete with John Rhys Plumlee returning, but that this year would probably serve as more of a transition for the Knights.
The Knights started off the season 3-0, with only Boise State really keeping it close. The Knights came back down to Earth, though, in their Big 12 debut against Kansas State. Despite a pretty impressive offensive performance that saw the Knights get more than 400 yards and 31 points, the Knights’ defense allowed over 500 yards and 44 points to Kansas State.
The next four Big 12 games provided similar results for UCF. The Knights’ offense played well enough to win the games, but their defense allowed the opposing teams to pull away, dropping the Knights to 3-5. Among those losses, though, is a narrow 31-29 loss to Oklahoma, a top 10 team at the time of the match-up.
UCF turned the corner in November. On November 4, they faced off against Cincinnati (who is also in their debut season with the Big 12. Despite giving up over 500 yards to the Bearcats, it was the Knights who edged out the victory, their very first in the Big 12.
The next week saw UCF’s most impressive victory of the season. They were facing off against a top 15 Oklahoma State team. Although OK State was heavily favored, the Knights thoroughly thrashed the Cowboys 45-3. It was the first time in conference play that the Knights held an opponent to under 300 yards on offense. UCF also averaged nearly 8.5 yards per play.
After dropping another close match to Texas Tech the next week, UCF sent their seniors off with a victory over the Houston Cougars, another Big 12 debut. The Knights held Houston to under 300 yards and allowed just one touchdown all game. This game propelled the Knights to bowl eligibility where of course they were selected to face Georgia Tech in the Gasparilla Bowl.
The takeaway from UCF’s schedule is pretty clear. UCF’s offense has kept them in nearly every single game they’ve played this season, but their defense limited the number of wins they were able to pull off. They also played Oklahoma (who finished the season ranked No. 12) incredibly close.