#22 UCF 2018 Football Preview

UCF Knights
Overall Rank: #22
#1 American
 UCF Logo
UCF had a program changing season in 2017. The Knights went 13-0, finishing up the perfect season with a 34-27 win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. It was a magical season for UCF, but with that success the program must now move on without Scott Frost, who took the head coaching job at Nebraska after two seasons with the Knights. Josh Heupel now takes over the program and hopes to continue the success.
2017 Record: 13-0, 8-0
2017 Bowl: Peach Bowl vs. Auburn (W 34-27)
Coach: Josh Heupel (0-0 at UCF, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Josh Heupel
Defensive Coordinator: Randy Shannon
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Adrian Killins, RB, 790 yards
Passing: McKenzie Milton, QB, 4,037 yards
Receiving: Dredrick Snelson, WR, 695 yards
Tackles: Pat Jasinski, LB, 104
Sacks: Trysten Hill, DT, 2.0; Shawn Burgess-Becker, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: Kyle Gibson, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Otis Anderson, WR Gabriel Davis, OL Jordan Johnson, OL Wyatt Miller, DE Titus Davis, CB Brandon Moore, K Matthew Wright, P Mac Loudermilk
Key Losses: WR Tre’Quan Smith, WR Jordan Akins, OL Aaron Evans, DE Jamiyus Pittman, DE Tony Guerad, LB Chequan Burkett, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Mike Hughes
UCF had the best scoring offense in the nation last year, tallying 48.2 points per game. Junior quarterback McKenzie Milton had an amazing sophomore season, throwing for 4,037 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also ran for 613 yards and eight touchdowns. Top receiver Tre’Quan Smith left early for the NFL and tight end Jordan Akins is also gone, but there is still plenty of pass catching talent. Dredrick Snelson was the most productive last season, but Tristan Payton, Tre Nixon and Gabriel Davis all have the talent to help replace Smith. With such an effective passing attack, the stable of running backs will have plenty of room to operate. Adrian Killins was the team’s top rusher last season, totaling 790 yards and ten touchdowns. Otis Anderson, Taj McGowan and redshirt freshman Bentavious Thompson are all capable of emerging as very productive backs.
The defense will look a little different without Shaquem Griffin and Mike Hughes, but there is enough talent for this to again be one of the more productive defenses in the American Athletic Conference. New coordinator Randy Shannon will move to a 4-3 scheme and there are some big questions on the line. Tackle Trysten Hill is a great piece to build around, but the new starting ends will have to find a way to get to the quarterback. Pat Jasinski should again be the team’s top tackler and team up with fellow returning starting linebacker Titus Davis. Kyle Gibson was a first-team all-conference safety last season with 64 tackles and four interceptions, but the unit took a hit when Tre Neal opted to transfer. Nevelle Clarke and Brandon Moore return at cornerback. Clark could be the next shutdown corner at UCF and Moore is just a sophomore who was a regular starter as a freshman.
The Bottom Line:
Repeating perfection is an unrealistic expectation, but UCF should enter the 2018 campaign with hopes of reaching another major bowl game and, of course, winning an AAC title along the way. In conference play, a trip to Memphis on October 13th could be the first tough test of AAC action. The November 23rd road trip to South Florida could decide the winner of AAC East and that should again be the game of the year in the AAC.
Projected Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 198.7 (33rd in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 331.8 (10, 2)
Total Offense: 530.5 (5, 2)
Scoring Offense: 48.2 (1, 1)
Rushing Defense: 159.8 (59, 4)
Pass Defense: 268.1 (115, 7)
Total Defense: 427.9 (93, 5)
Scoring Defense: 25.3 (52, 3)
Turnover Margin: 1.31 (2, 1)
Sacks: 2.08 (62, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.00 (5, 1)