Time for another edition of the Knights Roundtable!
We answer five key questions about the UCF Knights’ upcoming game against the Boise State Broncos at Albertsons Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday and the game will be shown on FS1.
1. One week out, how do you feel now about UCF’s performance in the opener?
Kyle: While I’ve said that UCF “played with their food” a bit more than I’d like against Kent State, there was plenty of good and only a touch of bad. THe Defensive Line excited me while the secondary didn’t. Skill players on offense excited me while the line didn’t. Any mistakes made looked correctable and the offensive game plan shows potential for balance, which is what has me believing the Knights can get past BSU.
Andrew: It’s hard to read how the team will do against Big 12 competition considering how bad Kent State was. You do have to be encouraged that UCF avoided serious injuries and outside of a couple of greedy, errant throws, played a very solid game. UCF’s pass defense in the short third needs work though. Kent State was able to move the ball very well across the middle under 10 yards.
Nick: I know some will call me greedy, overdramatic or ungrateful for saying this but honestly when it came to the first game, I feel like we could have done better. Yes, I know it’s crazy to say that when UCF won by 50 points, but in my opinion that score could and should have been higher. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset with how UCF played. I loved what the players did. But I guess the best way I would describe the teams’ performance is while they showed a lot of potential and a lot of things that can make them a threat, they also showed a few aspects of their game that they need to cut out. The biggest example was John Rhys Plumlee. He had a bunch of amazing throws, incredible runs, and overall played like a star. But he also threw two terrible interceptions, fumbled the ball, and played a little too risky. Yes, those mistakes weren't costly at all, but they will be when we play against the elite of the Big 12. He needs to learn not to make those mistakes going forward.
2. Boise is really good at home. Why do you think that is, and will it be a factor on Saturday?
Kyle: Part of it is the opposition. The Mountain West doesn’t exactly scream “juggernaut.” But part of it goes back to the program’s history as “giant killers” that pulled off high-profile upsets. Every time someone steps onto the infamous blue turf, it isn’t an aesthetic novelty that hypes the players up (or provides innate intimidation to opponents), it is a reminder that those who host games on this field have a history of greatness that is to be respected. Either that or it’s just a relatively well-run program. We’ll see if it lasts through the NIL era.
Andrew: It has been very rare to see the road team favored at Boise. Aside from being one of the regional powerhouses that have survived multiple coaches and generations of players, their growth in their early days of FBS has helped develop a degree of consistency. They won in the Big West, the Western Athletic, and the Mountain West. There are not as many schools to compete within the Pacific Northwest compared to schools in the East so that certainly helps. They can also leverage their consistency to help bring players in through the portal. You know if you go to Boise State, you can win and end up on the biggest stages. The spread isn’t big for this game and part of that reason is UCF’s mediocre road record under Gus Malzahn. While this game serves as a good road test for the Knights before conference play starts, there is no guarantee they will win.
Nick: It is always a challenge to win on the road in college football. That's just how it is. College football fans are rowdy and create unique environments. If you take that fact and combine it with the fact Boise is in a region where they're really the only notable thing, then you get an extra passionate fan base who will be ready to cheer their hearts out. So that will create a challenge for UCF. I saw earlier this week that sections of the stadium were still available for the public to buy. I don’t know if that's changed at the time of writing, but right now it doesn't look like it will be a sold-out crowd. and if that is true then I don’t think things will be as hostile as they could be come game day.
3. What did you see from JRP last week that encourages you — or not?
Kyle: Other than the running razzle-dazzle that Knight fans have come to know and love? I enjoyed the touch JRP had on his passes and most of the decisions he made. Honestly, even the interceptions weren’t bad choices as much as they were bad throws. The main thing I liked throughout the last week that cancels out the man “bad” from Plumlee that I observed is the acknowledgment that he must do more to protect his body throughout a long season.
Andrew: John Rhys Plumlee showed a massive improvement compared to last year in a number of areas. He stayed in the pocket more, kept his poise, and made crisper throws while going through his progressions. Last year, he would have tucked and ran much earlier in the play. I said last year that the number I look for with JRP is 60% completion and he was over 70% against Kent State. We know he got a little greedy at times and hopefully, he got that out of his system. Again, this was against Kent State. While I like his improved mechanics, he needs to be tested a little more.
Nick: I talked about this a bit in my answer to question one. Overall Plumlee was the star of the show. In my mind, he looked better in the pocket and he seemed more accurate on deep balls. And of course, he once again showed off the, as Kyle said, razzle-dazzle plays that made so many fans fall in love with him last season. To me, the thing that I liked to see was he seemed very calm when plays broke down. There were a few times during the game when a play looked broken, but either through his running abilities or by making a smart throw, Plumlee was able to make a play that resulted in the offense gaining a significant amount of yards. In other words, he made something out of plays that should have resulted in nothing. With all that being said he showed aspects of his game that he needs to cut out. He even admitted to this in the post-game press conference. He made a few terrible throws that resulted in interceptions and he at many points seems to have no regard for his body. We keep saying this, we need him to hold onto the ball and stay healthy. But if he keeps trying to play hero when he runs that won't happen.
4. What do you think happened to the Broncos last week at Washington, and how will it affect this week?
Kyle: They hit a buzzsaw of an offense led by a realistic Heisman trophy candidate in Michael Penix Jr. That’s the bottom line.
Andrew: Washington is just that much better. They played on the road against Michael Penix Jr., who is definitely in the conversation for a number of different awards. The Broncos started out well but were forced to focus more on the pass due to giving up four touchdowns in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, while already down 16, the wheels fell off. UCF is going to have to establish momentum and not allow the Boise State crowd back in.
Nick: They ran into an extremely talented team that was much better than them. It’s as simple as that. Losing is never fun, but to lose by 37 points sucks. If I'm a Boise player, I want to bounce back from that kind of loss and show what kind of team I'm actually on and as a result, I'm going extra hard in the next game. So in my opinion, UCF should expect to face an extra-hungry team.
5. Will we ever see Boise State in a Power Five conference?
Kyle: Yes — only a matter of when.
Andrew: Unless the Pac-12 somehow convinces the Mountain West to merge into a new PAC conference or they raid the conference, no. Boise State might have great football, but one reason they never made it into the Pac-12 was because of their academics. Granted, times have changed, but there’s no one to join now. Had the Pac-12 overlooked Boise State’s academic status, the conference might have survived.
Nick: Yeah. I think it will happen one day. When you look at the modern landscape of college football, that’s definitely possible.
Kyle: 27-20 UCF. I think both defensive lines do their part to keep scoring relatively low while he who makes the fewest turnovers wins (as usual).
Andrew: UCF 31-23. UCF is good at bending, but not breaking on defense and that will come in handy. The Knights running game is on fire and with so many weapons to choose from, Darin Hinshaw will find the right guy to gash the Bronco defense.
Nick: 35-24. I think the offense leads the way. I expect this to be a big back and fourth with UCF either always managing to stay one step ahead or eventually pulling away in the 4th quarter.