First Look: UCF Knights

Andy Lyons

With just under a week before Baylor plays its final game of the 2013-2014 season, and the first BCS bowl in program history, we're preparing now for the UCF Knights. Led by Blake Bortles, the Knights sport a powerful offense.

OPPONENT: Central Florida Knights
SB Nation Game Hub: For All the Tostitos...
2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
2013 ROSTER, DEPTH CHART (no idea how up-to-date this is)
2013 Statistics: From (Also available in a .pdf)
LAST GAME (for UCF): 17-13 win over SMU
SPREAD: Baylor -16.5

SB NATION UCF Preview: UCF Attempts to Avoid a Slip
UCF Offensive Stats/Ranks: Bortles is Good

I've been very happy to see the interaction on this board for UCF fans without a home on the SB Nation network. ODB's commentariat even manged to come up with probably the best name ever for an SB Nation blog, should they get one: The Knights' Watch. How cool is that? Anyway, UCF fans looking for a home for this game continue to be welcome here as long as they like. Let's look at their 2013 schedule:

Knights Football Schedule

Akron Thu 08/29 W 38 - 7
@ Fla. International Fri 09/06 W 38 - 0
@ Penn St. Sat 09/14 W 34 - 31
South Carolina Sat 09/28 L 25 - 28
@ Memphis Sat 10/05 W 24 - 17
@ Louisville Fri 10/18 W 38 - 35
Connecticut Sat 10/26 W 62 - 17
Houston Sat 11/09 W 19 - 14
@ Temple Sat 11/16 W 39 - 36
Rutgers Thu 11/21 W 41 - 17
South Florida Fri 11/29 W 23 - 20
@ SMU Sat 12/07 W 17 - 13
@ Baylor Wed 01/01 7:30 PM CST

The biggest win on the Knights' schedule this year came against Teddy Bridgewater's Louisville Cardinals back on October 18. That Friday night game not only set up the Knights to run the AAC should they win out, it also completely derailed (for reasons that are, at best, objectionable) Bridgewater's Heisman campaign. That game came three weeks after UCF's only blemish, a close loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks at home. Depending on your rooting interests, that close loss may actually be more impressive than the win over Louisville, especially considering the Knights trailed against USCe 28-10 before storming back with 15-straight points in the fourth quarter. The game wasn't really "in doubt" from USCe's perspective, since UCF never had the ball down just one possession, but South Carolina is by any measure a really good team.

Statistic National
Value National Leader Value Conference
3rd Down Conversion 15 3 0.483 LSU 0.586 Louisville 0.559
3rd Down Conversion Def 70 6 0.402 Michigan St. 0.277 Louisville 0.286
4th Down Conversion 103 7 0.375 Wake Forest 0.833 Rutgers 0.769
4th Down Conversion Def 31 2 0.421 Alabama
UConn 0.400
Blocked Kicks San Jose St.
Air Force
North Texas
Blocked Kicks Allowed 59 4 2 22 teams tied 0 South Fla. 0
Blocked Punts North Texas 4 Temple
Blocked Punts Allowed 73 6 1 72 teams tied 0 5 teams tied 0
Completion Percentage 12 3 0.668 Boise St. 0.706 Louisville 0.701
Fewest Penalties/G 34 2 4.83 Navy 2.67 UConn 4.67
Fewest Penalty Yrds/G 37 2 41.75 Navy 22.00 UConn 41.08
First Downs Defense 20 3 221 Louisville
Virginia Tech
Louisville 169
First Downs Offense 60 5 262 Fresno St. 370 Cincinnati 295
Fumbles Lost 61 6 9 Wisconsin
Notre Dame
Louisville 6
Fumbles Recovered 15 3 12 Ball St. 18 Houston 17
Kickoff Return Defense 35 3 19.83 Miami (OH) 14.24 Rutgers 17.94
Kickoff Returns 36 4 22.97 Stanford 27.79 Houston 24.86
Net Punting 105 8 34.82 Alabama 42.47 Houston 41.30
Pass Sacks Allowed 51 2 1.83 Toledo 0.50 Cincinnati 1.00
Passes Had Intercepted 28 3 9 5 teams tied 4 Louisville 4
Passes Intercepted 49 3 13 Florida St. 25 Houston 23
Passing Offense 27 5 280.0 Fresno St. 394.8 SMU 341.4
Passing Yards Allowed 63 4 229.8 Florida St. 152.0 Louisville 171.7
Passing Yards/Comp 25 1 13.49 Georgia Tech 17.79 UCF 13.49
Punt Return Defense 31 5 5.41 LSU 0.91 Louisville 1.15
Punt Returns 33 3 10.88 North Carolina 17.07 South Fla. 14.14
Red Zone Defense 10 2 0.719 North Texas 0.606 Louisville 0.714
Red Zone Offense 45 2 0.855 Florida St. 0.971 Louisville 0.887
Rushing Defense 13 5 116.5 Michigan St. 80.8 Louisville 86.3
Rushing Offense 79 2 152.0 Auburn 335.7 Cincinnati 168.5
Scoring Defense 13 3 19.6 Florida St. 10.7 Louisville 12.4
Scoring Offense 40 4 33.2 Baylor 53.3 Louisville 35.1
TFL Allowed 46 2 5.50 Toledo 3.25 Cincinnati 5.33
Pass Sacks 47 7 2.25 Utah
Louisville 3.25
Passing Efficiency 12 2 157.95 Florida St. 178.29 Louisville 170.64
Passing Efficiency Def 18 2 112.03 Florida St. 90.90 Louisville 99.55
Team Tackles for Loss 41 6 6.4 Clemson 9.4 Louisville 7.8
Time of Possession 24 2 31:58 Bowling Green 34:16 Louisville 33:25
Total Defense 19 3 346.3 Michigan St. 248.2 Louisville 257.9
Total Offense 45 4 432.0 Baylor 624.5 Cincinnati 482.3
Turnover Margin 23 3 0.6 Houston 2.1 Houston 2.1
Turnovers Gained 29 3 25 Houston 40 Houston 40
Turnovers Lost 42 3 18 Navy 8 Louisville 10

This is one of those situations I always talk about where absolute rankings, both defensive and offensive, are misleading. If you take the stats above at face value, Baylor will face a UCF team with a slightly above-average offense and great defense. These stats, however, do not take consider strength of schedule or pace in any way. F/+, which any close observer of the blog knows I trust far more, has it flipped. There UCF ranks 14th in offense and 48th in defense, numbers that probably reflect much more accurately the way the Knights are viewed across the country. It's worth noting that FEI has little respect for the defensive slate UCF has faced this season, ranking their offensive strength of schedule (stick with me) a mere 79th. That is a similar ranking to their defensive strength of schedule, which is 84th. Their overall strength of schedule is ranked 89th, meaning if you think UCF "hasn't really played anyone", you're somewhat right. Thankfully, the efficiency stats from FootballOutsiders take that into consideration where absolute stats cannot.

One place the stats, absolute and advanced, agree is with respect to UCF's passing offense. Junior Blake Bortles, about whom I wrote last week, is one of the best QBs in the country and the owner of the 9th-best passer rating in the NCAA this season at 163.3, about 16 points behind our own Bryce Petty. He has quality receivers in Rannell Hall, Breshad Perriman, and J.J. Worton, the three of whom combined for over 2,000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. He also has a very good RB in Storm Johnson, who some compare to Glasco Martin despite the fact that Glasco hates it. Johnson and William Stanback power what S&P+ calls the 10th best rushing attack in the country, so we'd better be ready to see quite a bit of him.

On the whole, F/+ bills this as a matchup between the #7 (Baylor) and #24 (UCF) teams in the country at this point. If that #24 ranking is correct, that makes UCF the second-best team we've played this season, just ahead of #27 Kansas State. As I said above, UCF's offense is ranked much more highly than their defense at #14, and they are especially good on passing downs (#6) vs. standard downs (#25). We'll talk much more about that in the coming days.

Question Time!

  • First, where have you guys been lately? I know content slowed down around here, but geez. We'll do better, I promise.
  • Second, rumor has it that Bryce Hager will play for Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. That moves Eddie Lackey back to OLB and effectively substitutes Hager for Brody Trahan. It also means that LT Spencer Drango will be Baylor's only starter missing for this game. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the top, how excited are you about having Hager back?
  • Third, S&P+ ranks UCF's defense 112th on pass downs and the Baylor offense 8th. Their pass defense as a whole 63rd and our passing offense 2nd. Now imagine that Tevin Reese is returning for Baylor after missing the last 4 games. Project Bryce Petty's line for this game.
  • Fourth, bowl games are generally considered the perfect time to showcase whatever trick plays you have in your arsenal, since you won't be giving anything away for future weeks. What would you really like to see in this department?
  • Fifth, Bortles.

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