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UConn Football Opponent Preview: UCF

The Huskies have the pleasure of opening this upcoming football season against the defending national champions.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 UConn football schedule has, by my unofficial count, four teams that will win comfortably against this year’s Huskies, unfortunately. Those teams are Central Florida, Boise State, Memphis, and South Florida.

Early projections from SB Nation college football stat guru and all-around good guy Bill Connelly have UConn as an underdog of ~20 points or more against each of those teams and less than a 13 percent chance of beating any of them.

So in the interest of time, we’re going take a quicker-than-normal look at these four teams. If you’re curious about how UConn matches up offensively or defensively against these schools, the answer is a resounding...

We start with the UCF Knights, who UConn will be taking on at Pratt & Whitney Stadium At Rentschler Field (PAWS ARF) on Thursday, August 30th:

The UCF Knights were extremely good last year and will be extremely good once again in 2018. The program deserves a lot of credit, because it has been excellent as a member of the AAC and sets the stage for a healthy #ConFLiCT rivalry once the Huskies get good again.

2017 Review

Many dozens of people see UCF as the rightful national champions of 2017. The Knights went 13-0, ending the season with a triumphant victory in the Peach Bowl over an Auburn team that beat both finalists in that year’s College Football Playoff.

It ain’t easy to go undefeated and win the AAC. The Knights took care of Auburn pretty comfortably, but it wasn’t such smooth sailing in their conference championship game win against Memphis or in the regular season finale against USF, which was an instant classic. What I am saying here is winning the AAC is clearly harder than beating Auburn. Come at me SEC.

In the middle of this dream season, the Knights found a way to beat UConn, 49-24, at home. They jumped out to a 21-3 lead after the first quarter and dropped another 21 in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Huskies quarterback David Pindell made his second career start, one which a well-known former Husky quarterback and current ESPN analyst reviewed positively.

2018 Outlook

Offensively, the Knights return quarterback McKenzie Milton and a startling amount of talent and production at the skill positions. UCF is even making a Heisman Trophy push for Milton, who enters his junior season as the top QB in the conference and probably the whole G5.

Running back Adrian Killins had 959 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns last year as a sophomore. He’ll be joined in the backfield by dual-threat RB Otis Anderson, who ran for 494 rushing yards and had 351 receiving yards on 30 receptions last year with seven total touchdowns. Milton is no slouch carrying the rock either, having rushed for over 600 yards in 2017.

The Knights lose two of their top three receiving targets, including third-round NFL Draft pick Tre’Quan Smith, but they have plenty of size, speed and ability waiting in the wings. Dredrick Snelson is their leading returning pass-catcher, with eight touchdowns and nearly 700 receiving yards in 2017. Gabriel Davis, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, will be counted on to step up after a strong start to his career in 2017. Anderson will also be a factor in the passing game.

Defensively, the Knights lose a few key players, including linebacker Shaquem Griffin and a couple of front seven disruptors in Tony Guerad and Jamiyus Pittman, but they’ll be fine.

They may not go 12-0 and claim a national championship, but this will still be a very good team. The Knights are a preaseason top-25 pick and predicted to win the AAC for a reason, even though they have a brand new head coach in Josh Heupel.

Prediction: UConn 72, UCF 108