2011 Record: (3-5, 5-7 in C-USA)
Head Coach: George O'Leary (50-51 at UCF, 102-84 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Liberty Bowl: beat Georgia 10-6
Big Name Opponents: 9/8 at Ohio State, 9/19 vs Missouri
Must Win: at Akron (8/30)
Stat to Cheer: allowed just 18.3 ppg
Stat to Fear: only had 17 sacks in 2011 after getting 32 in 2010
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 8; Defense: 8; Specialists: 0)
Key Defensive Returnees: S Kema Ishmael (81 tackles), S Clayton Geathers (67 tackles), LB Jonathan Davis (44 tackles, 3 sacks), DE Troy Davis (29 tackles, 5 sacks), CB AJ Bouye (21 tackles, 2 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Latavius Murray (549 yds rushing, 8 TD), WR J.J Worton (41 rec, 4 TD), WR Quincy McDuffie (43 rec), OG Theo Goins, OT Phil Smith, C Jordan Rae
UCF was flying high at the end of the 2010 season. They had just beaten an SEC team in their bowl game and looked like they were set up for a big year in 2011. After curb stomping Boston College (30-3) in week two, the Knights looked to be on solid ground but they would lose seven of their next nine with their only wins coming against Marshall and lowly Memphis. Six of those seven losses came by one score or less. This was a team that was just missing that final push in "winning time" to get over the hump but they were clearly in just about every game they played.
The QB situation is going to be very interesting for the Knights. Jeff Godfrey showed so much promise as a freshmen but struggled as a sophomore and ended up leaving school in December. The last I heard he has rejoined the team but as a WR (his eligibility may still be in question for the 2012 season). That leaves the QB job for Blake Bortles, or does it? Bortles played a good bit last year and put up better TD:INT numbers than Godfrey did. As it stands Bortles looks like the starter going into fall practice but he will face some competition from transfer Tyler Gabbert.
Another transfer has a chance to pay big dividends for the Knights and that's former Miami RB Storm Johnson. He had six carries for 33 yards and 2 TDs in the spring game and should get his chances to carry the rock this year alongside Latavius Murray and Brynn Harvey. Quite frankly the Knights looked stacked at RB and should easily have the best group in C-USA which should help open up the passing game more this year.
Defensively, the Knights only had one senior rank in their top ten in tackles last season (and one junior that went pro early). The defense was solid last year allowing just 18.3 ppg but it wasn't as opportunistic as the 2010 version where the Knights had 15 more sacks and caused 8 more turnovers. With a more veteran group this year they should take a step back towards the results from 2010. If they can this will be a team to watch in 2012.
There doesn't look to be a "beast" in Conference USA this year and I think UCF has just as good of a chance to take their half of the division and the conference as does anybody else in the league.
2012 Prediction: 9-3
Previous 2012 Previews:
Big 12: Kansas