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How Will Knights Navigate Their Quirky Schedule?

SIX BIGGEST QUESTIONS FACING UCF FOOTBALL IN 2017

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (Photo: UCF Athletics)
UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (Photo: UCF Athletics)

We are just one day away from the start of another UCF football season, so let's do something that no Knight better be doing right now: Looking ahead. A quick overview of the team's schedule is a prudent exercise at this moment because the long road to an American Athletic Conference championship is dappled with idiosyncrasies.

Game 1: FIU Panthers; Aug. 31; Spectrum Stadium

This is not the typical cupcake that most FBS teams begin their year with, at least not for UCF. First-year head coach Butch Davis has always fielded winning teams in college (especially if you count his wins that were vacated due to NCAA violations). The Knights know they must take the Panthers seriously since FIU spoiled the season-opener in Orlando just two years ago, which kicked off UCF's winless 2015. The Black and Gold gained a measure of revenge in Miami last season with a 53-14 triumphant blowout.

Game 2: Memphis Tigers; Sept. 9; Spectrum Stadium

Conference play already?! The Knights haven't faced a conference opponent this early since 2009, but their young secondary will undoubtedly be challenged by the Tigers' duo of quarterback Riley Ferguson and wideout Anthony Miller. Miller racked up 1,434 receiving yards last season, breaking the school record that had been held by Isaac Bruce. UCF has won nine consecutive meetings in this series.

Game 3: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets; Sept. 16; Spectrum Stadium

Here is UCF's marquee non-conference home game. Considering how difficult it is to prepare for a triple-option offense -- especially when it's carried out by ACC athletes -- this matchup will serve as a crucial tune-up for what the Knights will see later on in AAC play.

I wonder which team George O'Leary will be pulling for in this one?

Game 4: Maryland Terrapins; Sept. 23; College Park, Maryland

A tough back-to-back versus Power 5 programs concludes against the team that dealt the Knights one of their most heartbreaking defeats in 2016. Another tight finish should be in store here as Maryland is still a few notches below the beasts of the Big Ten.

Game 5: Maine Black Bears; Sept. 30; Spectrum Stadium

Traditionally, this is an odd spot to see a non-FBS opponent; UCF hasn't faced such a team this late in a season since 2001. Yet it might turn out to be perfect timing. Not to take anything away from Maine, who lost by a field goal at Connecticut last season, but this game should present the Knights with a less arduous task in the wake of their ACC-Big Ten showdowns. It should also result in a win as the team gears up to see nothing but conference opponents the rest of the way.

Game 6: Cincinnati Bearcats; Oct. 7; Cincinnati, Ohio

Game 7: East Carolina Pirates; Oct. 14; Spectrum Stadium

I don't have much to say about either of these games other than the Knights better win 'em if they want any chance at a division title. After the ECU game, The Knights won't play in front of their home crowd for almost a month.

Game 8: Navy Midshipmen; Oct. 21; Annapolis, Maryland

We've got two cases of deja vu occurring here. First, it's back to the land of crab cakes and football, just 30 miles more to the east this time. Second, here's hoping the Knights will have learned and retained a lot from their encounter with Georgia Tech's triple-option attack because they'll get another heavy dose of it from the Midshipmen. While beating the Yellow Jackets would be a fine feather in the cap, this is the more important game of the two for the purposes of what UCF wants to accomplish this year.

Game 9: SMU Mustangs; Nov. 4; Dallas Texas

The Knights will be spending much of their bye week figuring out how to slow down this explosive offense, headlined by one of the best wide receivers in the nation, Courtland Sutton. UCF has won three in a row against the Mustangs.

Game 10: Connecticut Huskies; Nov. 11; Spectrum Stadium

The Huskies are kind of like the opposite of the Mustangs. They averaged fewer than 15 points per game last season, but even the slightest uptick in offense could go a long way thanks to UConn's above-average defense.

Game 11: Temple Owls; Nov. 18; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If the loss to Maryland wasn't the toughest for UCF to stomach last season, the loss to Temple must have been. The Knights squandered a 25-7 lead in their homecoming game and watched the Owls get into the end zone with 1 second left to steal a 26-25 victory. You can bet that will be on the minds of many UCF players during the flight to Philly.

Game 12: South Florida Bulls; Nov. 24; Spectrum Stadium

Oh, the possibilities. USF versus UCF on the gridiron is always intriguing around these parts, no matter the storylines. But the Bulls are a top-25 team in many of the national preseason polls, a chic pick to go undefeated and may very well get to play in one of the New Year's Six bowls if they live up to the hype. Will the Knights spoil that party? Or, better yet, could this turn into a winner-take-all season finale for the AAC East? If so, the atmosphere should be amazing in "The Bounce House" on the day after Thanksgiving.

Will there be a Game 13? The Knights certainly hope so. However, there is a lot of work to be done and plenty of obstacles along the way. It all begins tomorrow night.

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This is our sixth and final installment of the Six Biggest Questions Facing UCF Football in 2017. Check out our previous questions in this series:

Question No. 1: Is McKenzie Milton Still the Man at QB?

Question No. 2: What Will Shaquem Griffin Do for an Encore?

Question No. 3: Will the Offensive Line Be Better This Year?

Question No. 4: How Has Scott Frost Improved in Year Two?

Question No. 5: Will the All-New Secondary Get Burned?