I said Saturday morning after the loss to Cincinnati that there was a need to address both the short-term and long-term situations facing the UCF Knights. Saturday morning was the immediate autopsy of a game – and season – which got knocked off track.
This column is meant to address the much bigger picture surrounding UCF.
One sentiment voiced Friday night was that UCF’s run is over. UCF is no longer “a thing.” UCF is no longer relevant.
If any of those commentators or college football fans were talking about 2019 alone, they are correct. UCF has been damaged too greatly and has too flawed a team to realistically stay in the Group of Five “New Year’s Six” bowl chase. Boise State would have to lose twice. Cincinnati would have to lose twice. Memphis would have to lose twice… and even then, UCF wouldn’t be in the clear.
The Knights’ chances aren’t TECHNICALLY finished, but they literally need every possible break – not most, but all – to fall their way over the next two months. That isn’t realistic. The 2019 campaign has been thwarted, even if the AAC championship isn’t entirely out of reach.
If you want to say the UCF hype and magic are over this year, fine. I can certainly accept that.
If you are referring to any period of time beyond 2019, get lost.
This program isn’t going anywhere.
Can we stop for a moment and realize how much horrendous luck the Knights have endured? McKenzie Milton got hurt. Darriel Mack got hurt. UCF’s defense – as I noted Saturday morning – played more than well enough to beat Cincinnati on the road. The Knights’ defense doesn’t need to be spectacular; it needs to be solid, relative to what Josh Heupel expects from his offense.
In 2017 and 2018, UCF’s defensive effort at Cincinnati would easily have been strong enough to win, and win decisively. In 2019? Dillon Gabriel and his receivers, AND his offensive line, were not good enough in concert with each other. They all suffered their share of failures.
If one person or unit did well, the other units didn’t finish the play. With Milton or Mack in there, the odds of such a red-zone disaster would have decreased sharply.
Now imagine a 2020 season without quarterback injuries. All the speed Scott Frost and Josh Heupel have recruited into the program will still be there. UCF has a solid foundation. This program isn’t going anywhere… which leads us to the program which blazed a trail for UCF (and yet doesn’t want UCF to succeed, for obvious reasons).
Before there was UCF, there was Boise State.
The Broncos did what UCF did, only better. (This is not a negative commentary on UCF, just to make sure no one gets the wrong idea.) Boise State played elite non-conference opponents early in the season and defeated them. The Broncos put themselves in position to contend for the national title.
Remember: Boise State went unbeaten in 2009 and defeated a higher-ranked opponent – TCU – in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl than the opponent UCF defeated when the Knights handled Auburn in the 2018 Peach Bowl.
The Broncos also would have played in the 2011 Rose Bowl had their kicker not missed a chip shot at Nevada on the Friday after Thanksgiving. TCU took the spot Boise State relinquished.
UCF rose to a very great height in 2017, but Boise State rose higher in 2009.
That run for the Broncos 10 years ago was not the product of uninterrupted dominance.
In 2007, Boise State lost three times, once by 12 points to WAC champion Hawaii and once to East Carolina in a bowl game.
If people thought Boise State was “over” – not just in that particular year, but for the long haul – they were sadly mistaken.
The Broncos delivered unbeaten regular seasons in 2008 and 2009. They didn’t lose more than one game in the next four seasons after their 2007 stumble.
Will UCF be as dominant as that? No one knows. Just realize that UCF being “over” is a 2019-specific thing, not a long-term reality.
The Knights have stockpiled too much talent to be wished off the stage by college football elitists.
UCF will be back. Mark it down… but not this year.
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.
Final Power Rankings for 2019
It’s the final edition of our 2019 power rankings headed into the bowl onslaught and the final Sunday of NFL football. The teams at the top should look familiar, including two that have won their bowl game already. and the final three have definitely deserved to be moved up or into the final list.
Florida Gators – the Gators are prepping for Monday night’s Orange Bowl against the Virginia Cavaliers and will hold down the top spot in the power rankings to dnd season based on their overall consistent performance. A second straight 10-win year and also “New Year’s Six” bowl game validates the hire and the hard work of Dan Mullen, his staff and the players. You consider the Florida’s only two losses in the toughest college conference in land are to #1 LSU and rival Georgia, who won the East and is in the Sugar Bowl themselves.
So, it’s been a good season. Now, can they cap it off what they did a year ago with a Peach Bowl win over Michigan?
UCF Knights – As we wrote on Monday, they finished with a third straight 10-win season by hammering the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. Freshman QB Dillon Gabriel (above) showed great poise, skill and potential for the future throughout the season. He threw two more touchdowns and ran for another, while being named the Bowl MVP.
UCF clearly has the arrow pointing up and has established itself, as the second-best program in the state behind the Gators.
FAU Owls- A great finish to the regular season, a Conference USA title game win and now, a Boca Raton Bowl win over SMU last Saturday brings the Owls to finish third on our list. Even though coach Lane Kiffin has departed to take over at Ole Miss, former USF, Oregon and FSU coach Willie Taggart slid-into Boca Raton and has a great chance to succeed right away.
Quarterback Chris Robison continued to play well throughout the close of season, including in the win over the Mustangs last Saturday. FAU won 10 games for the second time in three years and is deserving of this slot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Even though the Bucs had their four-game winning streak snapped last Saturday by the Houston Texans, they still have played consistent, good football in the second half of the year and had gotten their record to 7-7.
Yes, QB Jameis Winston has been maddening with the interceptions, but also has been smashing single-game passing records and has been a key part of them being able to score/win games. But, after three more picks last week, Winston needs a good performance in the finale’ with the Falcons Sunday to quiet down the critics that the Buccaneers part with him after this season.
Tampa Bay’s defense under coordinator Todd Bowles has also approved, particularly their secondary where they have spent numerous premium draft picks over the last few years. A win Sunday would only be the third time this decade the Buccaneers don’t have a losing season.
Miami Dolphins – They come off a dramatic overtime win over the lowly Bengals last week in a game, where they collapsed but still found a way to win. It was their fourth one of the season after an 0 – 7 start and clearly the team is playing hard for coach Brian Flores and his staff at the end.
We are still puzzled as to why they insist on not playing QB Josh Rosen in these meaningless games, but it likely means GM Chris Grier and Flores have decided that Rosen is being cut at the end of this season and they will simply eat $4 million dollars in dead cap money.
Finally, the development of DeVante Parker hass continued as he went over 1,000 yards receiving last week and got a contract extension with a bunch of guaranteed money. And, while Miami does have numerous holes to fill, they have a chance to be a .500 team in 2020, if they keep trending in the right direction.
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