Author’s disclaimer: This column is called Hot Take Tuesday. The opinions and predictions contained in this column will not all be accurate. In keeping with the hot take tradition of sports (particularly football) media, you’re probably better off taking in the spirit of the take rather than the words themselves. Don’t worry, at the end I’ll tell you how seriously to take it.
Let’s start with the one fact we can all agree on: UConn lost to Central Florida by 39 points last Thursday. Some people would look at a season-opening blowout loss and see a bad sign that portends more blowout losses in the future. Some people would see this loss as a continuation of the problems that has led to the program’s lack of success for the past few years. Some other people might understand the basic mathematical principle that one result makes similar results more likely. Thankfully, those people would all be wrong, because UConn is going 6-6 this season and making a bowl game.
Okay, yes, the 39-point loss might make that future hard to see. Consider, though, these factors: UConn’s offense moved the ball competently and efficiently all game (you can read about the offense’s improvement in more detail here), and would have scored more points if it wasn’t for bad turnover luck—UConn fumbled twice and lost both, UCF fumbled twice but recovered both, and David Pindell’s interception was in enemy territory. Had UConn been playing an average FBS team and not the reigning national co-champions (and a team likely to win at least 10 games this season), the offense would have looked even better. The majority of UConn’s remaining opponents are average FBS teams or worse.
This is also why I’m not quite as concerned about the defense as others are; the Knights have a great offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and the Huskies defense honestly showed a little improvement from last year, when they got regularly burned downfield by the likes of Virginia and East Carolina.
UConn puts a lot of freshmen and sophomores out on the field, so they won’t be beating anybody based on pure physicality, but this year the rotations are deeper and the players have more experience in the new, Diaco-less system. The defense will be the weak point of the team, but it won’t be as weak as many expect.
Six wins and a bowl is a bigger deal than “they’re slightly improved,” of course, but there’s a reason behind that too: many of UConn’s future opponents did not look strong in week one. Yes, as we already knew, they’ll almost definitely lose to Boise State and South Florida. But UMass got killed, East Carolina and Temple lost to FCS teams at home, Tulsa barely scraped by their FCS opponent, SMU got killed by a Conference USA team (not one of the good ones), and Syracuse gave up 40 points to an average MAC offense.
Games that UConn were thought to be a heavy underdogs in are becoming potential wins. As is, the Huskies should end up with four wins, could nab anywhere from zero to two 50/50 games, and for the first time in a few years, have the potential to upset a good team (just one that isn’t Central Florida).
If this improvement is legitimate, UConn’s baseline could be a 4-8 season, and they’ll have the potential to do much better. With just one upset, they could go 6-6. It’s happening. UConn will be bowl-eligible this season.
Hotness of take: Pretty spicy, and obviously way too early to come to this conclusion, but the improvement is real, and UConn fans have multiple reasons to be optimistic not just for the future, but also this season. The Huskies have a long way to go, of course, but after week one, it does seem likely that they’ll improve upon their three-win 2017 season.