3-0 start puts us exactly where we want to be
Saturday morning, like most college football lovers, I flipped on ESPN’s College Gameday broadcast to watch the storylines. This past week, Kirk and crew were in Boulder, Colorado riding the wave of excitement that’s recently stirred up with “Prime” Deion Sanders and the (soon to the Big 12) Buffaloes.
Watching the pomp and circumstance of The Rock making a guest appearance and hyping up Colorado, I realized, I wasn’t jealous that Gameday chose to go to a different black and gold school (for those of you rolling your eyes, stop, no, I wouldn’t expect Gameday to be in Orlando for a game between UCF and an FCS opponent). What I mean by that, is I’m perfectly content with UCF quietly doing its business and building and maintaining its confidence. In fact, it’s a good thing. Stay below the radar. Go unnoticed and continue to win.
During the broadcast, Kirk Herbstreit mentioned that Brian Kelly, head coach of the LSU Tigers, said that good teams are constantly building to see “what we can be.” This is exactly what Gus and crew are doing in Orlando after the first three games of the season. In each game, they learn a little bit more about who they are. What they’re good at. What needs to be adjusted. What is and isn’t working. All valuable knowledge that will be useful as the season progresses.
It’s no surprise that UCF plays its best when they are doubted. The Knights live with a constant chip on their shoulder. That’s the way I like it. I want the team focused on the game. Focused on their opponent. Focused on winning. I don’t want them focused on the media or top 25 votes. Watch film, not media takes. Listen to coaches, not talking heads. Nobody expected UCF to make any waves back in 2013 when we made our debut in the American Athletic Conference. We quietly went about our business, winning games, flying beneath the radar, and eventually, it paid off. We went on to win the conference and the Fiesta Bowl that year. Such behavior is where UCF thrives.
Big 12 play is just about here and UCF has its whole season ahead. The Big 12 conference is wide open, at this point. Texas and Oklahoma are the favorites, right now, but there’s a lot of season left to play. Week 3 was rough for several Big 12 teams. Head-scratching losses to Texas State, South Alabama, Wyoming, and Miami (OH) by several conference mates should be motivation to UCF. Their losses become our gain!
In his weekly press conference, Coach Malzahn suggested that good teams get better each week. That’s a key factor in watching how the Knights’ season develops. Gus would tell you that early in the season, good teams find ways to win and improve week to week. So far the Knights have done that. We’ll need to improve significantly as the competition we face will be a significant step up from what we’ve seen so far. I like where Gus and our coaches have the team. They’re focused and bought in.
Timmy McClain made his first start in a Knights uniform, against Villanova. He likely didn’t earn any Heisman votes, but he put on a solid performance throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Again, quietly getting his feet wet and getting acclimated to running UCF’s offense. Some might call that “boring” but that’s okay. We didn’t need an all-star performance from the redshirt sophomore. We just needed him to shake the rust off and secure a win. It appears we have a serviceable replacement for JRP, while he continues to heal from his leg injury. We’ll need Timmy ready to go as we travel to the “Little Apple,” next to play Kansas State.
Speaking of boring, did anyone catch the segment on Josh Heupel before the start of the Tennessee at Florida game? Glad to see that Heupel is still using the same mannerisms and seems as flat and boring as ever. Heupel going on the road and losing a game they should have won? Been there before. Again, another reason that we should be happy with where we’re at. Tennessee fans are learning what most of us learned a few years back. Anyone wishing to trade Gus and crew for a Heupel-led team? I didn’t think so!
UCF could (literally) not have done any better in its out-of-conference games. Being 3-0 headed into conference play, will be important in establishing a winning pedigree for the 2023 season and help us reach bowl eligibility. This week, I’d like to see the coaches continue to work with the offensive line. There were times during the Villanova game when it felt like the guys up front were getting pushed back by an FCS team. Expect our Big 12 brethren to have bigger guys up front. That’s a concern that should be monitored. Also, look to see some different offensive schemes from the offense. The offense was pretty vanilla last week. To be expected. I’m sure, Gus didn’t want to put anything on tape for K-State to prepare for. Now that Timmy has had a game to shake off the “rust,” I expect to see more fireworks on offense.
Let’s continue to quietly rack up wins, do our thing, and not get ahead of the season. This is where we want to be and I like where we’re at.