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Shaquem Griffin continued to silence critics Saturday at NFL Combine

Florida Football Insiders

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s quickly turned into a “Hollywood-esque” type story at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. And the guy, playing the “hero,” just gave a memorable performance on a weight bench Saturday.

We have written frequently, so far this off season, about UCF LB/S Shaquem Griffin, and his quest to play in the NFL despite an amputated left hand. Griffin has repeatedly (and politely) cautioned all critics and doubters that they are making a mistake questioning whether he can play pro football.

Want another example?

One of the of standards by which scouts and personnel people want to judge a player’s strength is the “bench press” at the Combine. How many reps can you do at the same 225 lbs. as everyone else?

Here was Griffin on Saturday:

Amazing. A guy using a prosthetic device in place of his left hand on the bar, displays tremendous strength and beats his personal best in reps of 225 lbs. by 11. Yes, that’s 11 more times than he had ever benched that much weight in one session.

The scouts, personnel people, media, and other onlookers were reportedly all but cheering on the end of that effort. And, why shouldn’t they? Forget about allegiances, or “you’re not suppose to root” guidelines. How can you not root for Griffin’s story?

And if you don’t think his story is “catching on” nationally, that NFL.com video had been viewed on Twitter over 1.3 million times since Saturday afternoon.

Also, the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, actually benched more than several prominent players, including Oklahoma offensive lineman and projected first round pick, Orlando Brown.

We know that it’s only a weight lifting drill, but Griffin is gaining momentum about his draft status.

Another example? When he got his media station/podium to field questions, there were over 30 reporters, camera people, etc. waiting. Griffin actually laughed and said to the group, “I thought there would only be three of you.”

He was then asked about how he just done what he did on that weight bench, and as transcribed by the Orlando Sentinel’s Shannon Green, said: “People are going to have doubt over the things I can do and obviously it started at the bench press. Some people didn’t think I could do three or five, some people didn’t think I could do the bench press,” Griffin said. “I went and did the bench press and competed with everybody else and did 20. That’s just one step closer toward everything I need to accomplish. There’s going to be a lot more doubters saying what I can’t do and I think I’m ready to prove them wrong.”

Griffin will run the 40 yard dash Sunday. Who knows how he will do?

However, with his play on the field last season and the “just go prove them wrong” efforts he continues to make during the evaluation process, regardless of the 40 time, don’t doubt him.

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UCF Knights

ESPN announces “College Gameday” coming for UCF-Cincinnati

Matt Zemek

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

They’re comin’ — to our cit-taaaaaay!

ESPN College GameDay — whose first road trip was connected to another team in the state of Florida, 25 years ago — will pay a visit to UCF. Kirk Herbstreit was part of the announcement on social media:

The visit makes sense on a weekend in which the amount of high-profile games is sparse: UCF-Cincinnati joins Notre Dame-Syracuse and Iowa State-Texas as the only especially appetizing matchups. ND-Syracuse is being played in a baseball stadium in very cold weather. Iowa State-Texas is on the Longhorn Network. UCF deserved this spotlight, and it will now receive it.

You know what’s coming: The GameDay crew will talk about UCF’s place in the College Football Playoff race, and about the need for college football to give the Group of 5 champion a spot in the playoff. You also know that McKenzie Milton will get some Heisman publicity.

This visit heightens the tensions surrounding UCF’s journey to a second consecutive unbeaten regular season. It raises the stakes for this game against Cincinnati, the one team with an especially legitimate chance of overtaking UCF in the AAC East Division now that South Florida has turned into a pumpkin, as many people suspected it would. (Temple is still alive in the East race, but it lost to UCF head to head and therefore has a narrow path to a possible division title.)

It is entirely understandable for UCF fans to get very emotional and anxious about the playoff debate — ESPN and GameDay will unavoidably intensify that larger theater of discussion and argument. Yet, with the spotlight falling on the Knights in a new and profound way, they must shut out the noise and do the one thing which exists in their power to achieve: WIN.

That’s it. WIN. Just win, baby.

Would it be awesome if Milton throws for 500 yards and six touchdowns?

Would it be fantastic if UCF crushes Cincy by 40 points?

Of course… but this isn’t about padding a stat sheet. This isn’t about “We Want Bama!”

This is about continuing to be a bunch of winners… which UCF has unfailingly managed to sustain for nearly two full seasons.

Just win. Just lock up the AAC East. Secure the spot in the AAC title game. Then win that game. Prevent Utah State from wresting away the Group of 5 championship. Just get another high-end New Year’s Six bowl against an SEC team. Just win that game.

Everyone else in the United States will debate and argue and go mad, one way or the other.

UCF’s best revenge — its only revenge — is to keep that loss column at zero.

Let all the other chips fall where they may… and let ESPN College GameDay marvel at a team which keeps the “O” in Orlando, while adding to those wins in the “W” column.

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UCF Knights

UCF’s latest win underscores perception problems

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the UCF Knights ran their win streak to 22 victories in a row Saturday afternoon at Spectrum Stadium with a solid win over Navy. And, no one can dispute that the wins keep piling up in Orlando.

However, as the second half unfolded, it was another example of what those knocking the Knights chances of crashing the College Football Playoff will point to: you weren’t impressive enough and/or you’ve had a weak schedule.

The Knights raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first half and appeared to have it on cruise control. And while they were never really threatened in the second half, they still gave up three long touchdown drives to a 2 – 7 Navy team. And, it made the final score a lot closer than it needed to be at 35 – 24.

You add this on to the national TV game with Temple 10 days ago, where the Knights were seen giving up 40 points and having to scrap into the 4th quarter to win the game over the Owls, and the critics have ammunition that you’re not looking as impressive as you should against lesser competition.

Now, it’s understood that while UCF does have QB McKenzie Milton, who is a special player leading a  powerful offense, their defense clearly is not as good as what it was in 2017.

Again, it might be unfair nitpicking, but that, too, will be held against the Knights by their critics.

Further, what’s also going to be held against them is: their strength of schedule. Saturday’s game was yet another opponent that brought nothing to the table in terms of UCF’s resume’.

Coming into the weekend the Knights schedule was ranked 108th in Jeff Sagarin’s USA Today rankings.

The good news is their schedule will get a jolt playing 9-1 Cincinnati next week. It will not be helped as much as they thought two weeks from now, by a USF team that is spiraling downward over the last three games.

And then there’s an AAC Championship Game looming which will likely be against a pretty good Houston team.

Again, the critics will say not nearly good enough and not nearly as impressive
enough, even at 9-0 now.

And days like Saturday don’t give UCF much ammunition to fire back at those critics.

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UCF Knights

UCF looks for easy Saturday to lead off our college primer

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The first time in several weeks all five of The prominent state school programs will be in action on Saturday. Here’s a look at the Slate of games and our primer:

UCF vs. Navy  noon, Orlando

The Knights continue with the nation’s longest win streak at 22 games and should get little resistance from the Midshipmen. Navy is really struggling at 2 – 7 coming off of being blown out 42-0 by Cincinnati last week. Quarterback McKenzie Milton will have a chance to pad his stats and all but lock up the American Conference player of the year award.

Unfortunately, it continues to be the case for the Knights that their strength of schedule is not good enough to help them move up in the College Football Playoff rankings from the 12th spot. This game will probably not help in that regard.

Gators vs. South Carolina  noon, Gainesville

Florida suddenly finds itself off back-to-back losses and on the verge of losing their way out of a New Year’s Day bowl game. If the Gators were contemplating started backup quarterback Kyle Trask against the Gamecocks today, that ended when he went down with a serious knee injury in Wednesday’s practice. Coach Dan Mullen could still go to freshman Emory Jones in place of Feleipe Franks and they may end up playing both quarterbacks some in this game anyway.

Former Gators coach Will Muschamp leads the Gamecocks in with a 4-3 SEC record. South Carolina won a crazy game at Ole Miss 48-44 last Saturday, as quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Florida defense will try to lock him down and help the Gators get back on the winning track-finish with a winning record in conference for 2018.

USF at Cincinnati  7 p.m., Cincinnati

The Bulls, who have been humbled in blowout losses in each of their last two games to drop to 7 – 2, have a tall task trying to beat the Bearcats in what will be a chilly Saturday night game. Cincinnati is 8-1 and as we mentioned above, had a laugher with Navy last week. Running back Michael Warren II is 69 yards away from 1,000 on the season and also has 14 touchdowns. Warren had four consecutive 100-yard games earlier in the year.

USF run defense was “swiss cheese” last week against Tulane giving up 300 yards at home, as they were beaten decisively. The game time temp will be in the low 30s and the Bulls will have to be better against the run tonight or it will be another long night for Charlie Strong’s team.

Meanwhile, if you’re at UCF fan, you very much one Cincinnati to win this game to set up the huge matchup in Orlando next week for the Knights, where the Bearcats would be 9-1 and in the top 20.

Miami at Georgia Tech  7 p.m., Atlanta

It seems to be a theme, but another reeling team is the Miami Hurricanes having been whipped by Duke at home last Saturday night, the Canes have now dropped three straight games and there are already growing calls that are now becoming more public that Mark Richt’s job is in trouble.

Now, the Hurricanes have to contend with Georgia Tech and the triple option, which has kicked into gear. The Jackets have won back-to-back games at Virginia Tech and North Carolina. And, Miami now has two be ready to tackle and fundamentally sound for this one or it could get ugly.

It appears Richt will go back to QB N’kosi Perry, the redshirt freshman, who has started a couple of times earlier in the year but has been in and out of the lineup with senior Malik Rosier. Neither quarterback has been consistent this season.

And finally, FSU at Notre Dame  7:30 p.m. South Bend, IN

As our Matt Zemek wrote yesterday, this one is not quite #1 vs. #2  “Game of the Century” of 25 years ago in South Bend. However, the Irish have done their part and are currently number three in the country aiming for the CFP Final Four.

However, they apparently will be without quarterback Ian Book. who suffered a broken rib in the win last Saturday night over Northwestern. That means Notre Dame will go to the starter that began the year Brandon Wimbush, who’s a better runner than thrower.

The bad news is Florida State’s defense has gotten no better as a season is gone on, including being wiped out by NC State last week.

The Seminoles also have a quarterback question. Having played James Blackman last week, who threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, coach Willie Taggart has not committed as to whether Blackman will start Saturday night.  Or he will go back to the starter for the previous eight games, Deondre Francois.

Most Florida State fans will be happy, if the Noles can just keep it close against the Irish.

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