This is the last in our Scouting Report series, but it's almost three full months until we play C. Florida. It'll get ugly and awful between now and then because it always does, and it's just too soon to tell. So I asked the staff instead of providing a scouting report to just write whatever they wanted about the Knights.
I don't know what to make of Central Florida's 2013 season. Somehow, UCF football completely re-invented itself, while remaining exactly the same.
After 15 years of shitting the bed every time they got close to a big win, they became a genuinely clutch team. But most of their clutch wins were against awful competition that a Top 10 team should have dispatched with ease. But they won the games against quality teams, where they were supposed to be exposed as frauds. But you don't get the sense that their success is the result of a better approach; they did the same dumb things they always do (George O'Leary popping off about players not being tough enough; printing T-shirts with the wrong city on them).
UCF didn't just beat the worst team in USF history. The whole AAC bottomed out in 2013. USF and UConn were way below historical levels. Temple, Rutgers, and SMU were worse than their moderately successful teams of late. East Carolina wasn't in the league yet. They didn't play Cincinnati. Still, YOU HAD ONE JOB, LOUISVILLE. Christ. I loved how @edsbs called it a "moral failure" when Louisville lost that game. Because it was.
Hey, what about that "George O'Leary's suddenly retiring after the Penn State game - no wait he's not for another 4-5 years" rumor? Granted, the sourcing was dubious. But when there's smoke in Oviedo, something has probably burned down already, and they're running around for a bucket and hose.
Somehow, the worst USF team almost beat the best UCF team, in Orlando. USF finally started figuring things out, especially on defense, in the last game of the season.
By the same time this season, USF should be better. UCF won't be.
I don't know what happened to UCF last season, but it is never going to happen again. They won the AAC by accident, squeaking out wins against Memphis, Temple and USF and somehow beating Louisville. Then they won the Fiesta Bowl because Baylor's backup players didn't know how to avoid penalties. Also, Art Briles didn't care about that game because he thought he was going to coach Texas in 2014. Without (probably illegally recruited) Storm Johnson and Blake Bortles, the program will descend back to irrelevance.
By the way, a great reason to come to this year's game is that it will be played in a respectable place called Raymond James Stadium, that has the structural integrity not to jiggle around when fans jump up and down. Of course, if you don't want to watch USF extend the series record to 5-1, you could always go over to Orlando check out UCF's Winter Wonderland Santa-fest.
I'd like to thank UCF for winning the Fiesta Bowl the same day we had our little mascot contest party. That was really the final kick in the ass to get USF to make the changes it badly needed to make. And it already looks like things are turning around like we'd always believed they could. So thanks, I guess?
They'll win about 9-10 games as long as they can get back from Ireland and play them. Other than that, I got nothing.
"It's UCF. They'll screw it up eventually."
This has been one of the core values of my adult life, and I think last year will end up being the exception that proves the rule. We've certainly not been afraid to take our leadership to task in the past, but if we were writing a UCF blog from anytime since the 1970's forward, we'd of probably jumped off a building by now. Decades of blatant incompetence and hubris don't get turned around this quickly, and last season was smoke and mirrors most likely.
It took an appeal of "one of the worst packages of NCAA violations in recent memory," and then winning that appeal due to a lack of due process by a broken NCAA enforcement structure, to even allow this to happen in the first place. They blatantly cheated, got away with it, took advantage of the worst team in USF history... and still only won by three at home (despite a 27 point spread). And we're starting to figure out that Bortles was pretty good as he's looked pretty good in Jacksonville so far. That's lightning in a bottle.
I can't take away from the stomping of Baylor. Though the Bears may have been mailing it in, when you roll a team that successfully you've done something right. But I think Penn State and Hackenberg will win comfortably tomorrow, and whenever they get back to the USA I think they're in for a long season.
They found a way to have a big season in the short term (something USF has never done by the way), but the odds of sustained success are quite low. Because it's UCF. Because of course.
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So there you go. We're all on record as saying C. Florida won't be repeating as AAC Champs, and that last year was more fluke beginning of a dynasty.
Let's just put that out there now, and see if we're right in November.
A game for the AAC title at Ray Jay would be incredibly compelling so I almost hope I'm wrong about both them and us (I've got us at 6-6 this year).