For the third straight week, the UConn Huskies (2-3, 0-1 American) come out of the weekend with a loss. Though all three losses have come against top-25 caliber teams, UConn needs to win this weekend for reasons which go beyond the trophy and rivalry game Bob Diaco created during the summer.
For starters, the Huskies have yet to win a road game in Diaco's tenure. The sample isn't large, but that is definitely not a statement Bob would want remaining true for very long.
Central Florida this weekend probably gives Diaco the best chance he has had so far. At 0-5, George O'Leary's Knights are reeling. So far this season, they have lost to Florida International, Furman and at Tulane in a blowout. They have the youngest roster in FBS football, by far, and have also been hampered by injuries.
Second, Diaco and the Huskies need to get back on track with a win. Regardless of what transpired on the field, losing two straight weeks by double-digit totals is not conducive to winning over fans. If they can come back from Orlando with a conclusive win, the pendulum of public perception would begin to swing back in their favor.
UCF is also very vulnerable in areas where they will be facing a strong UConn unit. The Knights' -35 rushing yards last week against Tulane doesn't bode well for when Foley Fatukasi, Julian Campenni and Luke Carrezola show up to destroy their world. They are also without their top running back and their starting quarterback Justin Holman has been injured, though he may play this weekend. The UCF defense, on the whole, has been porous against FBS opponents not named Florida International.
For UConn, although Arkeel Newsome has been receiving the bulk of snaps and carries the past two weeks, Diaco expects Ron Johnson to go back to his initial role as a co-starter. He also added that the running backs have been a bigger reason for the pressure on Bryant Shirreffs in the passing game than the offensive line. Diaco affirmed his belief in Shirreffs as the leader of the offense despite its recent struggles, and believes the offense is much improved but definitely a work-in-progress.
The Husky defense played well against BYU but faltered late because they simply couldn't handle the burden of being on the field for 90+ plays. As has been a long-held UConn Football tradition, we go into this week hoping the offense can keep the defense fresh enough to play a full 60 minutes.
Ultimately, this is a game UConn should win. The Huskies realistically need to win the next two games to keep bowl aspirations reasonable. That would put them in a situation where they need to win two out of this five-game stretch: at Cincinnati, ECU, at Tulane, Houston and at Temple. With a challenging finish to the season, a loss in the #conFLiCT would essentially put bowl game hopes to rest.