Knight fans need to stay positive, and realistic
“The night is darkest just before the dawn.”
“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.”
“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you’re hurt.”
“The 2023 season is going to get worse before it gets better.”
All phrases I’m sure you’ve heard before. Okay, maybe not that last one. I made it up just now, but all of them are very true, especially concerning UCF Football.
We’re midway through the 2023 season, and the Knights have accumulated a .500 record. The team has sputtered in their last three games, giving up a slew of points on defense. The offense, while respectable, has had execution issues and simply can’t keep the team in games while the defense is getting run over.
I wish I could tell you that things are perfectly fine and UCF will turn it around this week. I suppose I COULD tell you that, but I’d be lying. I’m afraid we’re likely in for another rough week of UCF Football, as the Knights travel to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the #6 ranked Sooners. I have little faith that the Knights will have enough firepower to hang with Oklahoma on this nationally televised ABC game. For better or for worse, I expect the game to be over early.
Oklahoma is led by former UCF quarterback, Dillion Gabriel and former UCF Offensive Coordinator, Jeff Lebby. The same Jeff Lebby who lobbied hard for the UCF head coaching job that went to Gus Malzahn, instead. For anyone hoping that the Sooners may overlook UCF and come unprepared, I have some unfortunate news for you — they won’t. Gabriel and Lebby will, no doubt, look to make it personal against Gus and the Knights. Get ready to cry on Saturday!
For a UCF fan base that is used to winning (at least in the last decade), it’s been a tough (few) season(s). We’ve had a string of bad luck events in recent seasons, with key player injuries and unfortunate ball bounces that didn’t go our way. Gus has been without his “starting” quarterback for nearly HALF of the games during his UCF tenure. That’s just mind-boggling poor luck. Yet, the team has still found ways to have winning records at the end of the last few seasons. So, there’s still some light at the end of the 2023 tunnel. The second half of the Knights’ football schedule is “lighter,” with winnable games. A bowl game is still in the cards. UCF should (emphasis on “should”) be able to find a way to snag three more wins. Houston, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech are all winnable games. Plus, we get several of these matchups at home. Win three and the Knights are going to play in the post-season.
That may not sound like much to celebrate, BUT (more bad news) I don’t expect the 2024 season to be any better. So, let’s take what we can get, now! UCF came into the 2023 season with fairly decent expectations, along with a roster loaded with seasoned talent. Talent that is graduating or otherwise moving on at the end of this season. While Gus and UCF have been building a great recruiting class for next year, if history is any indication, teams that have made the jump up from the G5 to the P5 typically struggle for a few years. Utah and TCU are good examples in their first few years in the Pac12 and Big12, respectively. Don’t expect the 2024 season to be any better than what we’ve seen in 2023. In fact, it could be worse! So prepare yourselves, now. Mental toughness will be key now and next year.
All is not lost, however. Remember that, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” I promise I’ll stop with the cheesy phrases, eventually. We need to be patient and give UCF the necessary time to acclimate to the Big12, recruit at a high level, build “power” depth, and simply get caught up. It’s going to take time. This isn’t the American Athletic Conference anymore. So, let’s all enjoy the ride, continue to go to games, support the team, cherish the wins we see, and keep chugging along.
As my colleague Dali Drama always says, “The sweet is not as sweet without the sour.”