#29 UCF Football 2021 Preview

UCF Knights
Overall Rank: #29
#2 American
 UCF Logo
UCF finished the 2020 season with a very disappointing 6-4 record. The offense was still amazing though and that will not change with a new head coach. Josh Heupel left for Tennessee and the Knights went out and grabbed Gus Malzahn to continue their success. After eight years with Auburn, Coach Malzahn is ready for a new challenge.
2020 Record: 6-4, 5-3
2020 Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl vs. BYU (L 23-49)
Coach: Gus Malzahn (0-0 at UCF, 77-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Harris Jr, G.J. Kinne
Defensive Coordinator: Travis Williams
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Bentavious Thompson, RB, 382 yards
Passing: Dillon Gabriel, QB, 3,570 yards
Receiving: Jaylon Robinson, WR, 979 yards
Tackles: Eriq Gilyard, LB, 59
Sacks: Tre’mon Morris-Brash, DL, 3.5
Interceptions: 6 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Ryan O’Keefe, OL Cole Schneider, OL Matthew Lee, LB Tatum Bethune, DB Derek Gainous, DL Landon Woodson, DL Cam Goode
Key Losses: RB Greg McCrae, RB Otis Anderson, WR Marlon Williams, WR Jacob Harris, S Richie Grant, DL Kenny Turnier, CB Aaron Robinson, LB Eric Mitchell
Dillon Gabriel has turned into one of the best quarterbacks in the country with another impressive campaign. In 2020, in just ten games, he recorded 3,570 yards and 32 touchdowns. More impressively, in 413 pass attempts, Gabriel was intercepted just four times. Speedster Jaylon Robinson caught 55 passes for 979 yards and six touchdowns. UCF needs some other playmakers to step up, but there are some options, including Tennessee transfer Brandon Johnson and Notre Dame transfer Jordan Johnson. The tight ends should be more involved this season and that is good news for Jake Hescock. Bentavious Thompson will look to take over the running back duties after tallying 382 yards and five scores in 2020.
The UCF defense struggled last season. They allowed 491.8 yards and over 33 points per game. The lone bright spot was on the line where the team managed to tally 2.60 sacks per game. The addition of Auburn transfer Big Kat Bryant and Ricky Barber from Western Kentucky should make the unit even better. Eriq Gilyard will be the leader at linebacker after tallying 59 tackles last season. The secondary will struggle to replace safety Richie Grant, but there is still enough experience to expect improvement.
The Bottom Line:
The UCF offense will be able to compete with anybody. How much success the Knights have in 2021 will largely depend on their defense getting off the field, especially against opponents with a decent passing game. The season starts against Boise State in what should be a fun Thursday night contest. A conference game at Cincinnati on October 16th could potentially have AAC title implications and thus New Year’s Six Bowl implications as well.
Projected Bowl: Military Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 210.7 (25th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 357.4 (4, 1)
Total Offense: 568.1 (2, 1)
Scoring Offense: 42.2 (8, 1)
Rushing Defense: 192.6 (93, 7)
Pass Defense: 299.2 (121, 11)
Total Defense: 491.8 (123, 11)
Scoring Defense: 33.2 (92, 8)
Turnover Margin: 1.20 (5, 1)
Sacks: 2.60 (38, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.20 (63, 5)