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UCF had a tough 6-4 record a year ago losing three close games they could have won before getting kicked around in the bowl game. After the season Coach Josh Heupel resigned and accepted the Tennessee job and the Knights jumped in and filled his shoes with Auburn-fired Gus Malzahn. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has moved ahead of UCF in the AAC and they are fighting to get it back. They have plenty of talent on offense but there are big holes to fill on a defense that wasn’t very good anyway.
Offense: All-Conference QB, Dillon Gabriel who has thrown for over 7,200 yards in his two years is back for his third year at the helm. He has two talented receivers, Jaylon Robinson (55 catches for 979 yards) and Ryan O’Keefe (20 for 391). The offensive line is deep and experienced and has all 5 starters returning including All-Conference guard Cole Schneider and second-teamer Lokahi Pauole. They will be counted on to protect Gabriel and open holes for Ben Thompson and converted former QB R.J. Harvey a transfer from Virginia Tech who was outstanding this spring.
Defense: The defense looks to make improvements after a poor 2020 season. Upfront they return Kalia Davis who opted out last year because of COVID, but he started nine games in 2019 and had a good spring. He will be joined by tackle Anthony Montalvo. LB, Eriq Gilyard was the 2nd leading tackler a year ago and he will be joined by Tatum Bethune to form a good duo. The secondary will miss Richie Grant but returns CBs, Corey Thornton and Davonte Brown along with S, Derek Gainous. New defensive coordinator Travis Williams needs to get more out this group if UCF is going to challenge for the top spot.
9/4 Boise State
9/11 Bethune Cookman
9/17 at Louisville
The non-con schedule is a challenge beginning with Boise State coming to Orlando for the opener. The winner of that game will get some national attention and the loser will be eliminated from any talk of cracking the playoffs (which ain’t much of a chance anyway). Game 2 is a gimme and then the trip to Louisville is another test. They should be able to handle UConn.
10/2 at Navy
10/9 East Carolina
10/16 at Cincinnati
10/30 at Temple
11/13 at SMU
11/26 South Florida
The conference schedule includes East Carolina, Tulane, and South Florida in Orlando and they are must wins. The other home game is against Memphis and that will be a test. The road games at Navy and South Florida are games they need and the other games at SMU and Cincinnati will play a big part in who wins the AAC.
Summary: Central Florida will be good again in 2021. The schedule is difficult with Boise State at home and tough conference road games against SMU and AAC favorite Cincinnati. They have a very good QB and they will put up a bunch of points. The question will be if they can keep the other teams from scoring a bunch too.
Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in the AAC
Overall Record: 9-3
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