Everyone knows not to expect much from games one and two before you begin the more brutal slate of heading toward conference play – unless you are the Mountaineers. UCF padded their schedule with an easy non-conference opponent of the Kent State Golden Flashes. In this contest, the UCF Golden Knights were favored to win by a spread of 35.5 points. So, while the media gave as much attention to Kent State pulling an upset as our own Week 2 matchup against Duquesne University, there are a few takeaways that Neal Brown (barring any fallout as the head coach) must be prepared to face:
Plumlee Is a Power Five Quarterback
Many believed UCF might have trouble adjusting to a Power Five (Four?) conference, but you would not know it to look at the quarterback play. Granted, this was a soft opponent, but Plumlee alone contributed to 371 yards of total offense with his legs and arm. This is an elusive threat that is anything but a stand-and-deliver pocket passer. It is important to remember that John Rhys Plumlee led UCF in rushing yards last season and was listed among the top ten rushers in the AAC for 2022.
Receivers Share the Load
Xavier Townsend and Javon Baker shared the lion’s share of targets, with 6 and 7, respectively. These two top targets for the Golden Knights combined for 140 yards in the season opener. Baker would tally up 56 receptions last year in the run-heavy Knight offense, combining these catches for nearly 800 yards. He will also be a contributor this season with his likely final year of eligibility.
Defense Might Not Be Their Strong Suit
Everyone is quick to bring up the potentially electric offense when they speak of the University of Central Florida, but there is considerably less chatter about the defense. Regarding turnovers alone, UCF ranked in the bottom third of the conference in the metrics for the past season. Heading into the Big 12 will undoubtedly show them some formidable offenses that can capitalize.
Issues with Ball Security
As exciting as the fast-paced Golden Knight offense might be, their success in the past several seasons has been a high-risk/high reward. For the most part, this has been worth putting the ball in places or situations where interceptions or fumbles might be more likely. Kent State was not a worry for UCF, yet the Golden Flashes still managed to force a fumble and rack up two interceptions in the drubbing Thursday.
Despite the cracks in the knights’ armor, it is easy to see why many analysts have placed the team in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 despite their needing to rise to stiffer competition. Playing all the newcomers to the league this season, this could be one of the more challenging road games besides the emotionally charged trip to Houston two games before heading down the coast. The West Virginia Mountaineers do not make this trip to tangle with the Golden Knights until October 28th. By this time in our schedule, we can hope to have an established offense and defensive personality and be making our mark as anything but a team picked to finish last in the conference.
(photo from AZCentral)