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Knights Roundtable: Game 6 vs. Kansas

After last week’s meltdown, UCF has to recover against the Jayhawks

R. J. Harvey
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Roundtable is back after a particularly tough week in the kingdom.

No rest for the weary, though, as we answer five key questions about the UCF Knights’ upcoming game against the Kansas Jayhawks.

Let’s begin:

1. About last week: Series of Unfortunate Events or systemic meltdown?

Bryson: I think it was a combination of both. The series of unfortunate events last weekend exposed a systemic issue with the UCF offense: its boom-or-bust nature. Out of 133 FBS teams, UCF is 113th in time of possession. The Knights either score quickly or give the ball away quickly. This means that the defense is forced to be on the field for a large amount of time, which will wear them down as the game goes on. So, if the offense goes cold like it did in the second half, that opens the door for opponents to make their way back into a game no matter how far down they are.

Could a play or two have gone differently and UCF still could have gotten a close win over Baylor? Yes, those are the unfortunate events. However, those unfortunate events were allowed to happen because the Knights were not able to hold on to the ball. It’s not that we can’t have big plays. They just can’t be every drive.

Nick: Part of me is kind of leaning to the side of the unfortunate events part, cause there were a lot of crazy bad luck moments that happened to UCF. A blocked field goal, a fumble returned for a touchdown, having to use a backup quarterback who showed his inexperience. Like Bryson said if a few plays go differently UCF probably walks out with a win. So I don’t know if you can call it systematic. But if we see similar things happen in the rest of the season, bad luck plays and both the offense and defense shutting down late, then maybe you can call this systematic.

Kyle: Not sure what a systemic meltdown is exactly, but I feel like this was different from UCF’s struggles against Boise State which was a series of unfortunate events. This is a young program used to living in a world where they are the underdog learning what truly happens when you are favored against a Power 5 program that you are dominating in a game early — going home early isn’t an option.

2. To what extent were the fans — especially students — at fault for the second half?

Bryson: I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible on this, as I was there in the north endzone student section with friends of mine for the first half (I watched the second half with Drew, whom I met IRL for the first time that day, at his seat near the southwest corner of the stadium.).

While I think the overall impact was negligible, I can’t say it wasn’t zero. Like it or not, the fans can really help bring a team back up when it gets in a rut. We’ve seen it happen in FBC Mortgage Stadium before. However, at the same time, the team should not have to rely on the fans for something it should be mentally tough enough to do on its own.

Students leaving in the middle of the game is not just a UCF problem. Say the Knights win that game on the last-second field goal, would the fans be as focused on the student section as they are right now? I think it would still be mentioned, but it would not be as large a talking point as it is right now.

It might be a reason the Knights lost in the way they did, but it’s not the reason.

Nick: Look while I think UCF was affected a little by the crowd leaving, come on. It’s not why they lost. When you’re up 35-10 in the 4th, you can’t just blame fans for why you lost. I also hate how many are acting like this only happens at UCF. Places like Alabama have a history of students leaving early. Plus when you really look into the facts, I get in a small way why so many people left. It was extremely hot. It looked like it was about to pour. It was parents' weekend, so many students had dinner plans with their parents. And of course, they got a big lead early. The first two home games were blowouts and the team got ahead big early in those as well. They probably thought the same was going to happen so why watch it again in the heat?

Here is one thing I want to share. As a UCF student who has watched every game from the student section, I have noticed that there is a difference between the student section in the north end zone and the one in the south end zone. Students who sit in the south end zone are awesome. They are true football fans. They are the loudest, always bouncing and they are there to the end of the game. Rewatch the game, that side is filled all game long. Those in the north end zone are not real football fans. Not saying every student who sits there isn't, I mean I've sat there a bunch, but the majority of fans who go there don't like to stand or make noise. I was sitting there during the Villanova game and the group behind me started complaining that me and my friends were standing up, which we’re allowed to do. Rewatch any game and that area will always have empty sections and is nearly empty after halftime. I feel like most of the people who go there are students who feel like they have to because game days are part of the college experience, but they don’t care about the actual game. Why do I bring this up? I think UCF needs to shrink the student section. Either get rid of the top section in the north end zone or get rid of the south end zone and have the student section be the entire north end zone. Either way, make it smaller so only true student fans get in.

Kyle: Frankly — get used to it. UCF would hardly be the only team whose fans leave early when the contest is out of hand. Miami and Florida as a couple of examples are no different. This is what happens when fans read a bit much into their own headlines about being favored against a team that hasn’t had their starting quarterback since Week 1.

What’s worse, coach Malzahn mentioned as much on Monday heading into the game that we didn’t really know what Baylor was as a team — apparently, we can add “they don’t quit” to the scouting report.

3. On Kansas: “What’s the matter with Kansas?” or “We’re not in Kansas anymore?”

Bryson: Jalon Daniels is a special QB. Should he sit another game on Saturday, (ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported him as “doubtful.”) it is certainly a blow to the Jayhawk offense, who went 1-3 when Daniels was out last season. However, those three losses were on the road, and that one win came against #18 Oklahoma State at home.

Plus, backup QB Jason Bean is no slouch. He is in his 6th year of college football, spending three years with North Texas, leading the Mean Green to the Myrtle Beach Bowl in 2020, and is now in his third year with Kansas. He was even the starter for the Jayhawks to start the 2021 season, only to be sidelined with an injury and lose the job to Daniels. Bean still passed for over 1,000 yards that season and he did it again in 2022 while filling in for the injured Daniels in five games. He also threw 14 passing touchdowns in 2022, the same number he threw in his 2020 season with North Texas. He did all that in just five games.

Plus, the Jayhawks are 25th in the nation in rushing yards thanks to running back Devin Neal. So, just like with Will Howard the last time the Knights were in the Sunflower State, don’t take an injured quarterback to mean the opponent is hobbled.

Nick: Kansas is no pushover. Yes, they lost, but that was to Texas. Even with their backup, they’re still a great team. And I think the Baylor game showed you should never take a team lightly. That being said, this is still a team UCF can beat.

Kyle: Curious to see what head coach Lance Leipold does for this squad if indeed they have a missing or injured Daniels under center. Also curious to see how they handle a ticked-off Knights squad, if in fact they are ticked off instead of deflated.

4. Yes: JRP is back, but will his leg limit him too much?

Bryson: I certainly hope not. If he was cleared to be in pads last week, it’s not too big of a leap to say he could get back to 100% by the next week. However, three weeks does feel like a little sooner than the “few weeks” timetable that HC Gus Malzahn gave after the injury occurred. So, if he’s not at 100% just yet, then perhaps his leg might limit him.

Is he still a better option than Timmy McClain? We’re just going to have to wait and see. All I’ll say is that his health needs to be Priority #1.

Nick: I mean how can we answer that? We still don’t know what his injury is. We don’t know what he looked like in recent practices. We don’t know what to expect out of him because they haven't told us. Maybe the leg is going to limit him. Maybe he’s back to 100%. I can’t answer that because I don’t know anything. This is a question that can only be answered after the fact.

Kyle: Yes. In my opinion, giving JRP this coming Saturday day off and using the bye week to get worked back into the offense leading into Oklahoma (who may be Top 10 ranked if they beat Texas) is best. JRP without a full-functioning knee based on what we saw last season may not even be an improvement of Timmy McClain in my mind.

Timmy hasn’t been the biggest issue in either of the losses. JRP’s return doesn’t suddenly make the linebackers cover the outside better or help RJ Harvey hold the football tighter.

5. Light Mode: Yay or nay?

Bryson: I’m a big contrasting colors kind of guy, so I’m going to say, Nay. There’s nothing about this uniform that really pops out at me. For those that may argue back “the whole uniform pops,” then that reminds me of a certain line from The Incredibles. In this instance, when everything pops, nothing does.

Maybe it will look better on TV.

Nick: I don’t know why this gets so much hate. Sure it’s not the greatest uniform and it reminds me of those golden Oreos for some reason, but it’s not a bad uniform. Frankly, I think it looks a little cool. Also, have you seen some of the uniforms UCF has had in the past? I still see fans at games wearing jerseys that look way worse than this. So everyone calm down and give these a chance. Maybe they’ll grow on us.

Kyle: The reason why this gets so much hate is it’s bland, boring, and overly bright. You want shine? Put it on a dark color, or roll the dice and hope you can finally get the shade of gold correct with white numbers. This ain’t it.

Score prediction!

Bryson: I think this game will be less Baylor and more K-State, and as long as the Knights remain mistake-free, they can win. However, Kansas has the home-field advantage. So, I’ll say UCF wins 37-34 on a late Colton Boomer field goal.

Nick: Coming off a loss like last week and being on the road is going to make this game a tough one to win, but I got faith in the boys. This is the hardest-to-predict game I’ve had to do so far, so I’ll just throw out a random guess: 28-24 UCF.

Kyle: Third down conversion rate determines this game. I know I preach death, taxes, and the over in the Big 12, but it’s not every week both teams will (allegedly) have their backup quarterbacks in. In one of my lowest-scoring RoundTable predictions to date, I have 24-21 UCF.