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Columns Front Office Writers Joe Heisman NCAAF Sports

College football preseason top 25: No. 20 UCF Golden Knights

The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the sixth of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover no. 20 UCF Golden Knights.

Overview

The undefeated season for UCF is now over and Scott Frost has moved on. Josh Heupel takes over after being the offensive coordinator at Missouri. While this team may not go undefeated, there is ample reason to think the Golden Knights will be successful once again.

Offense

UCF had the number one ranked scoring offense in the country last year. Their passing game was 10th-best in the country, while the running game was also solid at 33rd. With seven returning starters on this side of the ball and Heupel’s offensive expertise, UCF should be able to move the chains often.

McKenzie Milton might be undersized, but he knows how to operate an offense. He threw for 4,037 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 67.1% completion. The most impressive thing for Milton is that he is doing all this while completing throws down the field with 11.1 yards per attempt. He is the main reason people have faith going into the season for UCF and even has some dual-threat abilities with 613 rushing yards.

UCF Golden Knights top 25
Gabriel Davis (Photo newdayreview.com)

He lost some targets to the NFL in Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins, but there are still some solid players to throw to. Dredick Snelson, Gabriel Davis and Otis Anderson all had over 300 yards receiving and will get more opportunities this season. Davis and Snelson specialize on the outside, while Anderson does a little bit of everything, including getting touches in the running game. Tight end Jake Hescock also will make an impact after transferring in from Wisconsin.

Adrian Killins Jr. is back at running back after rushing for 790 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. He got to the end zone 10 times on the ground. Anderson will chip in to help the running game. Last year he rushed for 494 yards.

Three offensive linemen return to the offensive line, but they have some skilled players who will make it a solid unit. To add to the returning players Trevor Elbert, who was once at Texas A&M, gives them another good starter.

It might not be the best scoring team in the country, but UCF has a lot of fire-power to work with.

Defense

The defense was average last year, but that was good enough. They ranked 52nd in points per game and 59th against the run. Despite having first-round NFL Draft pick Mike Hughes, the secondary was bad last year, finishing 115th against the pass. They have six players with starting experience back on the defensive side of the ball.

Trysten Hill is reclaiming his defensive tackle position, but will have new faces around him. Luckily the new faces have been around the program for a few years. Hill had 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last season. The other three projected starters have three sacks between them, so getting more pressure on the quarterback will be a focus.

UCF Golden Knights top 25
Pat Jasinski (Photo by rivals.com)

The leading tackler for the Golden Knights, Pat Jasinski, is back to lead the linebacking core. He will team with Titus Davis and Shawn Burgess-Becker to create a good trio. These players may not be Shaquem Griffin but will be forces to be reckoned with in their own right.

While the secondary has three starters back, they weren’t great as a unit last year. They have a chance to be worse than last year with the loss of Hughes, so the hope is that the players got better individually over the offseason and they will be better as a unit come the season.

Teams that can pass will leave them vulnerable, but they don’t have to be great for the team to have another great season.

Outlook

UCF has non-conference games with South Carolina State (home), North Carolina (road), FAU (home) and Pittsburgh (home). They have more talent than all of these teams, but could drop a game to FAU or Pittsburgh if they don’t bring their “A” games.

They play in the AAC, which provides decent, but not great competition. They’ll have tough games at Memphis and at South Florida. If they make it to the AAC Championship Game they’ll likely match up with either Houston or Memphis in another tough game.

Going undefeated would be tough, but the team has the talent and schedule to win 10 or 11 games which could qualify them for another New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

 

Make sure to check out our college football page for more updates and rankings.

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