ORLANDO - If UCF can knock off Florida, it will be a major windfall for the program. The Knights will get their shot against the Gators on Dec. 23 in Tampa at the Gasparilla Bowl. To be honest, UCF could not ask for a better situation.
This is a chance to play a Florida team that’s in total transition with Dan Mullen no longer the head man. The Gators hired Billy Napier to be the next Head Coach, which means installing at least part of a new scheme prior to the bowl game.
There’s bound to be several misfires with communication issues for Florida. There’s also the question of how many of the Florida players immediately buy into Coach Napier’s system? That’s an opportunity for the Knights to capitalize on mistakes.
It's impossible to know the exact number, but anytime there’s a coaching change there will likely be players that want to go in a different direction and enter the transfer portal. UCF should be able to take advantage.
UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn has already installed his system and the players have done a really good job at adapting to the tasks at hand and buying into Coach Malzahn’s vision for the program. Combined with the uncertainty surrounding Florida, UCF has an excellent opportunity to be the more motivated team in Tampa. There’s also the uncertainty at quarterback for both teams to think about.
How will UCF quarterback Mikey Keene perform on a big stage like playing against the Gators? He’s been up and down since he took over the starting role in week four against Navy. For the Gators, quarterback has also been inconsistent.
Will Emory Jones and/or Anthony Richardson play well against UCF? Further, how will UCF play against at least one really talented running quarterback? That’s been a concern with the UCF defense against teams like Louisville with Malik Cunningham rushing for 99 yards and two touchdowns, but the Knights held another really talented runner in Timmy McClain to -17 yards rushing.
Which UCF rush defense comes out onto the field at Raymond James Stadium?
Of course there’s the question of which players actually play. For UCF, the injury bug was really hard on them all season long. It will be a chance to get running back Isaiah Bowser back in the lineup. He’s a difference maker because of his all-around skills, and that will be needed against a front seven for the Gators that is very athletic. There is also another type of attrition to be worried about for both teams.
Which player(s) opt out of the bowl game and decide to just head off and train for the NFL Draft?
Florida usually has several players ready to leave early for the NFL anyway, and now a coaching change and 6-6 season are also in their rearview mirrors. Look for a few Gators, if not several, to not be dressed in the orange and blue on Dec. 23. That of course will benefit UCF.
Overall, this is a game with many different sidebars to consider, and they will be analyzed throughout the next 17 days heading into the game. It’s going to be a lot of fun breaking it all down before the Knights and Gators meet in Tampa.
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