The UCF Knights face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET in FBC Mortgage Stadium. For UCF, it’s a big spot, as they can get a win over an ACC team to close out the non-conference phase of the schedule and enter AAC play at 3-1.
Georgia Tech meanwhile may be on the verge of a number of changes, and possibly not just in the football department.
The guys have collected at the Round Table to discuss the game:
So, are we feeling better about the offense after last week?
Andrew: Sure, they showed some improvement, but they need to be consistent over multiple games before they make me feel better. I really liked seeing second-unit players like Xavier Townsend and RJ Harvey get some game time. That’s important. As we’ve seen with injuries, these players need to be ready to step in and the offense needs to be ready to have them.
Kyle: In a word — NO! Until I see UCF’s O-line in a position to dominate a credible opponent in the trenches offensively, I’m still going to be somewhat skeptical. I hate to continue to beat this drum, but I think it’s clear that as the Oline goes, so too does Plumlee and the offense. Though as Lokahi Pauole declares that the line is gelling more and more each week, Georgia Tech is hardly the opponent that will have me confident enough to declare them better. Should UCF compete with SMU in the coming, we’ll talk.
Jeff: Y’all are such downers. Look, I get it that it was against FAU. But there’s something to be said for doing what you’re supposed to do against someone you’re supposed to beat — i.e., not playing down to the opponent — and figuring out some things along the way. Looking at what John Rhys Plumlee did in particular, he made only one mistake (the interception in the third) and really looked like he settled into Gus’ offense. He took what FAU gave him and it led to his best game yet. And the best part is I feel like we haven’t even shown our cards yet in terms of personnel and scheme. The best is yet to come.
Bryson: Yes, but it’s still not enough to be entirely confident about it yet. I agree with Kyle that the offensive line having a good or bad day could determine just how effective Plumlee and the other skill position players can be. Case in point: Isaiah Bowser’s 3.2 average yards per carry so far this season.
While playmakers like Plumlee, O’Keefe, and Richardson might be able to keep UCF in the game, the outcome is ultimately decided in the trenches. Until the O-line proves itself against a tough opponent, I’ll likely still retain the same healthy amount of skepticism about the unit that I had last week.
Noah: In terms of Plumlee, yes. He proved himself once again against FAU. Rushing. Passing. This man can do it all. WR corps needs a little work, but they’ve got one last game before conference play to tweak out their issues. Nothing that can’t be fixed.
What’s more likely: Georgia Tech wins, or Georgia Tech loses and Geoff Collins is still the head coach next week?
Andrew: Collins is on a very short leash with no margin of error. There is a greater chance Georgia Tech loses and he’s still the head coach. It really depends on the margin of the loss. I don’t think he survives two more losses though no matter what.
Kyle: Considering that Collins wasn’t assured to be on the sideline leading into this game, any scenario that assumes he remains on the sideline is the least likely situation.
Jeff: I hate thinking about this. I knew Geoff Collins from his time here at UCF, as well as several of his staff, and they’re all good dudes. But those guys are also experienced enough as coaches to know that this is a bottom-line business, and Tech just hasn’t put up the results. UCF is heavily favored for a reason, and I just don’t find it likely that, if UCF handles this game as predicted, that Collins will be much longer for this job. I just hope that, if Collins and his staff are let go, that they find themselves on their feet somewhere.
Bryson: Considering Tech’s loses this season were to two ranked Power Five schools and Collins’ hot seat is already sweltering, this weekend’s game is Collins’ last shot to save his job. If Tech loses to UCF, an unranked G5 team, like it did to Clemson and Ole Miss, then that’s the last straw.
That said, I’ll actually take GT losing and Collins staying on another week as the more likely option as long as Tech’s loss to the Knights is a close one, say two scores.
Noah: Should be simple for GT: a loss and Collins is out. It is his 4th season as Head Coach of GT, and Collins has yet to win back-to-back games with the Yellow Jackets. That’s hard to get by on in a Power 5 conference.
Should UCF’s defense be considered elite nationally now?
Andrew: They’ve looked good so far, but it’s only three games in and that isn’t a lot of data points. Come ask me that after the SMU game. It will shake out statistically over time.
Kyle: As with the offense, what they do against SMU will answer this question. If they can slow the Mustang quarterback Tanner Mordecai, then we can talk. I can make an argument that they aren’t the best UCF defense in the past 5 (or more?) years so far.
Jeff: In comes my Kyle/Drew impersonation: Maybe. They’re ranked quite high nationally. But FAU’s offense likely won’t finish as high as they were coming into Saturday, and we’re only going to find out for sure when UCF plays SMU. However, they have bailed out the offense in goal-to-go situations twice, and even in the game UCF lost, acquitted themselves well and kept the team in the game. Right now, they’re in great shape.
Bryson: I don’t know if I would consider it elite, but it’s hovering pretty close to the edge of it. The Knights rank 19th in the nation in Total Defense, 28th in Scoring Defense, and 7th in Passing Yards Allowed, all of which are hallmarks of an elite defense. It’s just the team’s rushing defense, where they rank 79th in the nation, that gives me pause.
I don’t know if stopping Georgia Tech’s rushing attack would move the needle too much on its own, but it would be a start to make the case that UCF has a nationally elite defense.
Noah: D-Block is severely underrated. Using GT as a tune-up game for conference play, and with this game on national TV, they have a prime opportunity to show people what they can do against a Power 5 school. It doesn’t matter that it’s Georgia Tech. This game matters.
Kobe Hudson is back. What does this mean for John Rhys Plumlee and the offense?
Andrew: In all honesty, I don’t think it changes all that much. Another weapon is good, but you can only distribute the ball so much and after a point, the law of diminishing returns steps in. As players like Townsend and Harvey, who I mentioned earlier, continue to step up and deliver, they’ll earn their playing time and contribute. At this point, Hudson is a clear WR3 in the starting lineup.
Kyle: Long-term for this season, any scenario that can give Ryan O’Keefe a break leading into this game is a positive. The more rested O’Keefe is for the SMU and Cincinnati games, the better the chances for the wide receiver corp to be a factor in these important American Athletic Conference games that will determine UCF’s ability to compete for a chance to win their league. Hudson on the field for Georgia Tech and being productive can give O’Keefe at least a half’s worth of rest.
Jeff: Well, UCF has been without him for two games and the more talent the better. Given what he can bring to the table, I’d like to see what the offense can do in the passing game with another elite wideout. Perhaps the threat he presents could open up the running game as well.
Bryson: The more Plumlee can spread the ball around, the better. O’Keefe and Baker will probably remain the workhorses, but Holler’s big plays last week showed that other less-targeted receiving options can create big plays in this system if they can catch the defense off guard. The more capable receivers a QB has at his disposal to do this with, the better, and Hudson adds one more to the bunch.
Noah: Just another arrow in Plumlee’s quiver. Hudson should be able to prove himself well this weekend and hop right into the well-oiled Gus Bus already on the highway.
Andrew: Open the floodgates. UCF is just way better and it’s going to show. UCF 42-10.
Kyle: I see head coach Gus Malzhan running the ball a lot and putting the Offensive Line to work to preserve Plumlee and the wide receivers. 35-7, UCF wins.
Jeff: UCF. Big.
Bryson: UCF 27, GT 13. Maybe I’m severely underestimating UCF’s ability to score again, but I’d rather remain conservative for one more week, just in case.
Noah: UCF 38, GT 13.