Sports

American Athletic Conference opponent preview: UCF

In the sixth part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Next up: the University of Centrral Florida Knights.

Located in Orlando, the University of Central Florida is about a 15 hour drive from Temple’s main campus being 991 miles away. The Knights play their home games at Bright House Networks Stadium, a $55 million on-campus facility that opened to a capacity of more than 45,000 in fall 2007.

While last week, The Temple News previewed one of the oldest programs nationwide in Rutgers, UCF football has a relatively young program having debuted in 1979. The Knights have an all-time record of 204-187-1, a .522 winning percentage.

The Owls have never played UCF, as this season marks the first competition between the two squads.

The Knights have a record of 38-27 over the past five seasons. They have three bowl appearances in that time frame, with a record of 2-1 in those games.

George O’Leary is entering his tenth year as head coach of the Knights, having previously served as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Vikings. O’Leary has an all-time record of 60-55 with UCF, and has brought the team forward in many regards having started his tenure with a winless season in 2004. All five of the bowl games UCF has ever played have come with O’Leary as coach.

The Knights had a solid 2012 campaign in which the team went 10-4 having the best regular season record in the conference, later losing to Tulsa in the Conference USA Championship Game. UCF competed against Ball State in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, when they defeated the Cardinals 38-17.

UCF had been previously banned from postseason play in 2012 due to NCAA sanctions in regards to recruiting violations. An appeal pushed back the penalty to 2013, but the NCAA has since rescinded its bowl ban for the Knights this season.

The UCF offense is considered by many to be the team’s strongpoint, as junior quarterback Blake Bortles is one of the best at his position in The American. Bortles stated all 14 games last season, ending with 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns. He had a 62.9 completion percentage and a 144.48 rating. Bortles also rushed for 285 yards and eight touchdowns in what was his first full year as a starter. The receiving core is also solid, as Rannell Hall and J.J. Worton return to the team having finished last season with 631 and 594 yards respectively.

Defensively, UCF is expected to face some challenges. The team is losing safety Kemal Ishmael, last year’s Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. The Knights have also lost cornerback A.J. Bouye to graduation. UCF will likely rely upon junior linebacker Terrance Plummer to lead the defense this season, who last year ended the year with 108 tackles, seven for a loss.

UCF has had a number of players successfully pursue careers in the NFL, including former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper and former Philadelphia Eagle Asante Samuel.

Temple will host UCF at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 16 at a time that has yet to be announced.

Avery Maehrer can be reached at avery.maehrer@temple.edu or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.

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