UCF Preview 2006
Central Florida Golden Knights
Posted Aug 6, 2006

If you had told UCF last year at this time that it would end up in the Conference USA title game and in a bowl game, it would've been ecstatic.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

So why does 2005 feel so empty? Maybe it's because of a 44-27 loss in a home game against Tulsa for the Conference USA title. Maybe it was the missed extra point in the thrilling, but crushing, overtime loss to Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.

It's easy to forget now that the George O'Leary era didn't exactly get off to a strong beginning with an 0-13 start as part of a
17-game losing streak with 19 losses in 20 games before going on an impressive run of eight wins in nine games before the unsatisfying finish.

What was most impressive about the turnaround, the fourth greatest in college football history (bettered by 1999 Hawaii, 1940 Stanford and 2000 South Carolina), is how it happened. UCF appeared to need just a little bit of tweaking to be much better than the 2004 disaster, and those changes came in the form of true freshmen getting the start in the secondary and the backfield. Now the team should reap all the rewards of suffering through the youth and inexperience of last season.

Head coach: George O'Leary
3rd year: 8-16
10th year overall: 60-49
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 17, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best UCF Players
1. RB Kevin Smith, Soph.
2. CB Joe Burnett, Soph.
3. C Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, Sr.
4. QB Steven Moffett, Sr.
5. WR Mike Walker, Sr.
6. .
LB Ronnell Sandy, Sr.
CB Johnell Neal, Soph.
FS Jason Venson, Soph
RB Jason Peters, Jr.
10. SS Sha'reff Rashad, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 Villanova
9/9 at Florida
9/16 South Florida
9/26 Southern Miss
10/4 at Marshall
10/13 Pitt
10/21 Rice
10/28 at Houston
11/4 East Carolina
11/11 at Memphis
11/18 at Tulane
11/25 UAB

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Results: 8-5

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/1 at South Carolina L 24-15
9/17 at South Florida L 31-14
9/24 Marshall W 23-13
10/1 at UL Lafayette W 24-21
10/8 Memphis W 38-17
10/15 at Southern Miss L 52-31
10/22 Tulane W 34-34
10/29 at East Carolina W 30-20
11/5 Houston W 31-29
11/12 at UAB W 27-21
11/19 at Rice W 31-28
12/3 C-USA Championship
UCF L 41-27
12/24 Hawaii Bowl
Nevada L 49-48 OT

The disappointments of a job not finished last year will be part of the experienced and talented team all season long. No matter how well things are going, it's unlikely O'Leary will let his players forget how quickly it can all come crashing apart. The nice part about this team will be how few times he'll have to bring up any past failures; this group remembers them all too well.

However, UCF isn't a lock to win anything even with 19 starters returning. All the fantastic looking young players in the secondary got torched last year and must prove they can be consistent. All five starters return to the offensive line, but that group couldn't stop anyone's pass rush. And then there's the question of wins; did UCF actually beat anyone last year? The best win of the eight last year was either against Memphis or Houston while the five losses were against, arguably, the five best teams on the schedule (South Carolina, South Florida, Southern Miss, Tulsa and Nevada).

But who cares? After two straight losing seasons and a wildly disappointing four-year stint in the MAC, there's no arguing against the school's best season since 1998. Now the question becomes whether or not the team hit a ceiling or if the program is about to enter the stratosphere. The coaching, the recruiting base, and the potential is there for a bright future. If last year was any indication, the future might be now.

The Schedule: The key will be getting off to a decent start and not getting down if the record is 2-4, or even 1-5, going into the layup against Rice. Forget about winning at Florida, but a home date with South Florida will be crucial for the team's psyche going into the start of the Conference USA season with a huge home game against East power Southern Miss followed up by a trip to play a resurgent Marshall. There's a tough stretch of three road trips in four weeks over the second half of the year that'll make or break bowl hopes.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Kevin Smith. He's the speedy, steady, reliable factor in the offense able to keep everything running smoothly when everything isn't working quite right. However, QB Steven Moffett has Conference USA Player of the Year potential if he improves as much from last year to this year as he did from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore CB Joe Burnett. He's a good-sized corner with great hitting ability and a nose for the football. There are few better open field tackling corners and there likely won't be many, if any, in Conference USA who'll make bigger plays.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Chris Welsh. The loss of Paul Carrington takes away the team's top pass rusher leaving a huge hole to fill. Welsh has been a steady defender over the last few seasons, but he, or senior Kareem Reid, has to get to the quarterback early and often.

The season will be a success if ... UCF gets back to a bowl game. Yeah, it'll be Conference USA title or bust with the way last season went, but the schedule is too tough to demand or expect a second straight East championship. Another eight win season would be fantastic.

Key game: Oct. 14 vs. Southern Miss. Marshall and East Carolina are better and the road trip to Memphis in mid-November isn't going to be a walk in the park, but it's the Conference USA opener against Southern Miss that will set the tone for the season and put UCF in the driver's seat if it can come away with a win. USM won 52-31 last year.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: UCF 97 for 823 yards - Opponents 79 for 616 yards
- UCF third quarter scoring: 60 - UCF fourth quarter scoring: 118
- UCF home crowd for the Conference USA title game vs. Tulsa: 51.978. Highest attendance for any of the other UCF home games: 32,635.

The Last Time UCF…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Hawaii Bowl vs. Nevada)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2001 (UL-Lafayette)
…was shutout…2003 (Ohio)
…scored 50 points…2001 (Akron)
…went undefeated…Never
…won a conference title…Never
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2002 (Ryan Schneider)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Kevin Smith)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Brandon Marshall)
…had a first-round draft choice…1999 (QB Daunte Culpepper)


Related Stories
UCF Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
UCF Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
UCF Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006

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