There had been questions about the legitimacy of UCF’s 12-0 American Conference Championship season. There had been outright disrespect by the College Football Playoff selection committee who continued to leave the Knights around 15th or 14th in their rankings for three consecutive weeks late in the year, before finally moving them into their top 10.
There was doubt about whether they could hang with an SEC team. Well, there aren’t questions or doubts anymore. On the first day of 2018, the Knights out-executed and outplayed the Auburn Tigers of the mighty SEC in a 34-27 Peach Bowl victory to complete their perfect season.
QB McKenzie Milton shook off an awful first half throwing the ball, and led the Knights to two critical second half TDs, as UCF overcame a 20-13 second half deficit to lead 27-20. Milton threw TD passes to RB Otis Anderson and WR Dredrick Snelson capping off long drives to build the lead.
He was named the MVP of the Peach Bowl.
Then, the Knights defense took over and when LB Chequan Burkett raced in front of an Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham pass and took it to the house for a 45 yard TD, it was a 34-20 lead in the fourth quarter.
Auburn would not quit and Stidham led them down the field on an 89 yard TD drive that culminated with Eli Stove 7 yard TD run and the lead trimmed to 34-27. Stidham finished 331 yards 2 TDs but two costly interceptions.
It looked like the Knights were going to put the game away with a clinching drive inside the Auburn 25 yard line in the final three minutes, but for the second time in the second half, failed to convert a field goal. Kicker Matthew Wright, who had a 25 yarder blocked earlier in the half, then missed a 38 yard field goal wide left to give the Tigers life.
But after driving into UCF territory in the final :30. Stidham threw this final pick to Antwan Collier in the end zone, which sealed the win.
Perfect season ✅ pic.twitter.com/7L2SQCcXD4
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2018
The game was coached by new Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, as he and his former staff of coaches stayed to coach the Peach Bowl and clearly his team responded to finish the unbeaten year.
It’s remarkable reversal for the Knights who were winless at 0-12 two years ago, and now finish as the only unbeaten FBS team at 13-0.
USF and UCF got American Conference 2020 schedules Tuesday
On Tuesday afternoon the American Athletic Conference made official is 2020 football dates for opponents for its conference members. And, that means UCF and USF got to look for the first time at their full conference slates and when they are playing whom.
First for the Knights, they learned that they will open year three of coach Josh Heupel’s conference play on Thursday night September 24th at East Carolina. It is one of three stand-alone weeknight(day) games UCF has on their schedule.
The next one will be Friday night October 16th, as UCF travels to play the Memphis Tigers. That’s a team that the Knights defeated for two Conference Championship Game victories in 2017 and 18.
— American Football (@American_FB) February 18, 2020
UCF will also play a traditional “War on I-4” game with the rival Bulls on the Friday after Thanksgiving November 27th. This will be the fourth straight year of playing on “Black Friday.”
As for the Knights other part of the league schedule, they will have their AAC home opener with Tulsa on Saturday October 3rd and then, finish the slate with two huge home matchups with Temple Saturday November 14th followed by Cincinnati at Spectrum Stadium the following week.
For the Bulls, who welcome first year coach Jeff Scott in 2020, they will only have two standalone appearances in conference play. Those will be a Friday night home game October 23rd with Tulsa and then, the previously mentioned final rivalry game with UCF on Friday November 27th.
The Bulls first conference game of the season will be at Cincinnati on October 3rd, while the home opener is East Carolina the following week at Raymond James Stadium.
USF has a tough road slate beginning at Temple on October 17th and then, after the Friday night home game with Tulsa, playing at Memphis November 7th and at Houston November 14th.
The conference is playing 2020 with only 11 members, as UConn has departed and gone back to the Big East. This will also be the first time that the AAC doesn’t play a two six team division format and will instead take the top two ranked teams in conference play for it’s December Championship Game.
Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl
One-player eager to start showcasing himself Saturday afternoon in the pre-draft process in St Petersburg is former UCF speedster RB, Adrian Killins.
Killins ,who just finished four years of highlight runs and touchdowns for the the Knights will participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) December 2, 2019
Killins is generously listed at 5’9 and 165 lb. and came UCF without much fanfare from Daytona Mainland High School. However, he had been an explosive player on the football gridiron, and he was also a former two time 3A State 200m track champion before coming to Orlando.
Once at UCF in 2016, Killins immediately showed off his explosiveness and moniker of “fastest player in college football” with a 100-yard kickoff return at ECU and an 87 yard touchdown run at “the Big House” in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
His best season was his sophomore year, when he was named First Team All American Athletic Conference RB, as he rushed for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead UCF. He showed versatility and caught another additional 25 passes for 169 yards.
He also set a UCF record for longest play from scrimmage that still stands, in the UCF regular season win over Memphis, as he took a handoff and the looked like a missle racing down the sideline:
Longest run in @UCF_Football history ✔️
Longest run in @American_FB history ✔️
2nd-longest in NCAA this year ✔️
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
Killins helped the Knights experience their greatest season ever at 13 – 0 with not only a thrilling double-overtime conference title game rematch win over the Tigers, but a New Year’s Day upset of SEC Powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl for the perfect season.
His next two years under Josh Heupel and his new coaching staff were not as spectacular. But, he still he would make the occasional explosive run and finished his career with over 1,700 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.
He did leave a final impression with his 115 yards and 1 TD in the regular season finale with USF.
Now, he knows that with his smaller size, even with blazing speed, he will be challenged to stick on an NFL roster, and another way might be as a kick returner. Killins left UCF with a career 21.8 avg on 47 returns as a Knight.
He will likely need to show that part of his game to help him get a realistic shot at the next level. And, we wait to see if there will be explosive plays from him Saturday.