Cram Session: UCF Gets 2017 Under Way Against FIU

UCF vs. FIU Preview

Bright House Networks Stadium UCF
Panorama of Bright House Networks Stadium during the 2013 UConn game (Photo: Jeff Sharon)

Football is back! And in Week 1, your UCF Knights face the FIU Golden Panthers. Don’t sleep on this one – FIU has been pesky to UCF in these two teams’ history. Let’s break it down:

Kickoff

Thursday night, August 31st, 6 p.m. at Spectrum Stadium.

TV

  • CBS Sports Network.
  • Play-by-play: Sean Grande, who does the Boston Celtics on the radio.
  • Analyst: Aaron Murray, the former four-year starter at QB for Georgia. Originally from Tampa Plant High School, Murray was the Bulldogs’ QB when UCF won its first bowl game over Georgia in the Liberty Bowl

Programming Note: Get home as soon as you can so you can catch Memphis in their opener against Louisiana-Monroe on CBS Sports Network right after the UCF game is over. The Knights play Memphis next week in a critical early conference game.

Series

3-2 UCF. It’s been eventful.

Last Meeting: 2016. UCF throttled FIU in Miami, 53-14. It was not even that close. UCF racked up 501 yards of total offense, and we all got a taste of what the Oregon offense in black and gold would look like:

It was so bad, FIU fired head coach Ron Turner hours after the game.

Last meeting in Orlando: 2015. FIU beat UCF, 15-14 in the opener. Pretty much a glaring indication for the rest of the year:

UCF’s average margin of victory in the series: 30 points. FIU’s: 4.

Three Things You Should Know

Butch is back: FIU’s head coach this year is Butch Davis. Yes, that Butch Davis – the guy who won two Super Bowls under Jimmy Johnson as an assistant with the Cowboys, and then took on a rebuild at the University of Miami in 1995. Under Davis, the Canes went from probation to a National Championship the year after he left for the Cleveland Browns (a move he admitted that he regretted in “The U Part 2”). He recruited arguably the most talented college football team in history.

But Davis has been out of coaching since three straight 8-5 years in North Carolina that ended in scandal. But his return to South Florida has been met with hosannas. So far the reviews of his return to Miami are positive.

Thursday Night’s NOT Alright: UCF has lost its last three Thursday night games, all at home, including the season opener in 2015 to FIU. The Knights’ last home win on a Thursday night was against BYU on October 9th of 2014, a 31-24 OT victory. However, UCF has won nine of its last 11 season openers, and eight of the last nine home openers.

Bad Blood?: So UCF was supposed to wear white for this game, but apparently, FIU decided to be jerks about it:

FIU Coming In

What we don’t know: Quite a bit. A new coach who hasn’t coached in six years with a new staff makes FIU somewhat of a mystery scheme-wise, although they do return 15 starters from last year’s 4-8 campaign. UCF’s coaches are familiar with the personnel their players ran over, around and through last year though:

What we do know: Last year the Panthers finished the season 4-8, and 4-4 in C-USA under interim head coach Ron Cooper. This year, they’re in a complete tear-down under new head coach Butch Davis. QB Matt McGough (28/37 for 260 yards and a TD in the Panthers’ upset of UCF in 2015), is back, as is oft-injured RB Alex Gardner (15 rushes for 75 yards and a TD vs. UCF in ’15).

Fun Facts

Scott Frost actually played for Butch Davis with the Cleveland Browns in 2001. Frost was a safety, and played 12 games, recording a fumble recovery, 11 tackles and strangely, his only career NFL rushing attempt for one yard in a 31-15 Week 12 loss to Tennessee. The Browns went 7-9 that year.

Also: Butch Davis is the last head coach to lead the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. That happened in 2002. Here’s how that ended. Sorry, Browns fans.

When UCF Has the Ball

UCF Offense: Repeat history. In last year’s matchup, the Knights racked up seven touchdowns, six of them on the ground. Dontravious Wilson had three of them. Adrian Killins had the big highlight, a 61-yarder in the third that effectively ended the game. The Knights out-gained FIU 501-189, and picked up 26 first downs to FIU’s 11. McKenzie Milton’s pedestrian day (8/14, 174 yards, TD) didn’t matter.

FIU: Keep the Knights from hitting a groove, much like Arkansas State did last year in the bowl game. Third downs will be key to keeping McKenzie Milton and his crew of playmakers from doing their thing.

When FIU Has the Ball

FIU Offense: Frustrate the Knights. Pound the rock, play keep-away, convert third-downs and milk the clock. That’s how you tire a defense and keep the offense off the field. Case in point: 2015, when FIU out-rushed UCF 131-46 en route to the win in Orlando.

UCF Defense: Pressure, pressure, pressure. Stop the run on the early downs and force McGough to make plays. The senior QB knows enough to try and take advantage of UCF’s inexperienced secondary, and the best way to prevent that is to throw people at him and make him uncomfortable just like last year, when he went 5/9 for just 68 yards while platooning with Maurice Alexander (6/14, 41 yards, INT), who got sacked five times.

Stats for Degenerates

Line: UCF is a 17-point favorite. Over/under is 56.5

Trends

  • UCF has averaged almost 395 total yards of offense in the last three meetings, compared to FIU’s 251.
  • The total has gone under in seven of UCF’s last eight, and in each of their last five home games
  • FIU is 2-11 straight up in its last 11 road games, and 2-4-1 against the number in its last seven road contests

Weather: HOT during the day, dropping below 90 possibly only in time for kickoff. No rain expected. Winds out of the east at around 7 mph.

Pick: UCF 31, FIU 14. It won’t be the boat race we saw last year. FIU will come out fired up for their new coach but run out of gas.

Who Ya Got?

About Jeff Sharon 184 Articles

Jeff Sharon is the Managing Editor, Publisher, and boss around here. He graduated from UCF in 2005 and worked in the Knights’ athletic department full-time from 2008-2010. He still works for UCF as a public address announcer at several sporting events and also thinks the Atlantic Sun Conference days were more fun than you realized. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Sharon.