Our staff predicts UCF Football’s 2018 season

Photo credit: Sarah Kelliher/Knight Sports Now

Bailey Adams

Record: 14-0

Postseason: AAC Championship, Peach Bowl win over Georgia

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t trust the College Football Playoff committee even a little bit. There is absolutely zero reason to. So, yes, I think UCF goes undefeated in the regular season, beats Houston in the conference title game and takes over Atlanta for the second year in a row to win a second consecutive Peach Bowl. It’s difficult to say who the Knights would face in the Peach Bowl considering there is no direct conference tie-in, but Georgia seems like a good fit considering the location and prestige of that program.

Isn’t keeping a 13-0 UCF team on a 26-game winning streak out of the playoff exactly something the “P5” elitists would do? The schedule will be their excuse. North Carolina and Pittsburgh are power five programs, but the committee likely won’t consider those “quality” wins. FAU should continue to be successful under Lane Kiffin, but the committee won’t care since programs outside the “P5” don’t matter to them. Memphis and USF likely won’t be as good as they were a year ago and the AAC in general isn’t respected. All of this adds up to another excuse, albeit a poor one, to keep UCF out of the playoff invitational.

As far as the undefeated prediction goes, it’s pretty hard to predict anything else. There isn’t a team on the schedule with more talent than UCF. Something unforeseen could happen, of course. But the Knights return McKenzie Milton, Adrian Killins, Jawon Hamilton, Otis Anderson and Dredrick Snelson as a strong core on offense. Returners like Trysten Hill, Pat Jasinski and Brandon Moore, plus some talented newcomers, should thrive under new defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.

UCF is talented enough to make a playoff run, but the committee may still be its toughest obstacle.

Christian Simmons

Record: 15-0

Postseason: AAC Championship, Orange Bowl win over Clemson, National Championship win over Alabama

No, I’m not crazy. Seriously. Given the year that the Knights are coming off of, there’s no reason to expect anything less than another perfect year. Practically all of the team’s top players are returning, its schedule is more favorable than last year, and new coach Josh Heupel appears to be the perfect guy to lead this team into the future.

Obviously, anything can happen and maybe some surprise team in the American will be capable of giving UCF issues, but as things stand now, this team is looking practically unstoppable. And maybe it’s not as much of a long shot for the Knights to make the College Football Playoff as people think.

If they emerge from conference championship week undefeated, they’ll be on a 26-game win streak featuring two conference championships and a Peach Bowl win under two different head coaches. That’s a playoff team, even to the committee.

Of course, much of the nation believes that UCF will get crushed if it ever has to match up with a playoff team but history is on the Knights’ side. They took down Auburn, arguably the SEC’s best team last season, and it’s looking like UCF will be even better this year.

So, my prediction, as crazy as it sounds, is that the Knights are going to follow up their best season in history… with their best season in history. I bet “back-to-back” champs sounds pretty good to Danny White.

Zack Winiecki

Record Prediction: 13-1

Postseason Prediction: AAC championship, Peach Bowl win over Georgia

UCF is returning most of its offense and added a head coach in Josh Heupel who has seen quarterbacks under his guidance vastly improve. The Knights also got a significant upgrade at defensive coordinator in Randy Shannon, and based on my minutes of research, they should be favored to win all of the games on their schedule.

With that being said, I think they lose one game, to Pitt, but still finish high enough to make a New Years Six Bowl game.

Pitt played some good teams close last year, including a win over the committee-ranked No. 2 Miami with a freshman quarterback. They could be a decent team this year, and with UCF coming off a big win over Lane Kiffin’s FAU, this game could be a letdown for the Knights. This will only be their fifth game of the season under the new regime and they still be might trying to figure things out on both sides of the ball, especially defense.

UCF and Heisman finalist McKenzie Milton will win the rest of their games handily, but unfortunately the one loss will keep them from defending their national title. This will set up another Power Six showdown between the SEC and AAC in the Peach Bowl against Georgia that UCF will win.

The Knights very well might go undefeated and make the playoff. It may even be more likely than the scenario that I laid out. I just can’t be the one to say it.

Sarah Kelliher

Record: 13-1

Postseason: AAC Championship, Peach Bowl win over Alabama

UCF will likely have another successful football season come this fall, but I see them falling just short of back-to-back perfect seasons. The Knights’ 12-game regular season should be one that they can handle, but I see week five against Pitt being the difference maker. The Knights added Pitt and UNC, two ACC opponents to their schedule this season, and this is the game that if they are going to struggle in, I could see a loss happening.

To be honest, the Knights have more talent on their roster than any of their opponents, but this would be the fifth straight week that they would play and fatigue could really play a factor. Going into week five, the Knights will have already traveled twice and will be just one week removed from having had to handle the sneaky speed of Lane Kiffin and his squad at FAU.

For my postseason prediction, UCF’s road to win the AAC Championship should be much easier this season than last. USF will not be nearly as strong without quarterback Quinton Flowers, allowing the Knights to claim the American East, and Memphis will not be nearly as competitive without quarterback Riley Ferguson in the American West. I see Houston being able to clinch the American West, and the Knights taking the conference against them in the end.

The Knights will most likely be slept on by the “experts” of the College Football Playoff Committee for another year, but despite that I still see them landing back in another New Year’s Six bowl game, likely against Alabama in the Peach Bowl. In a battle of “national champions,” the Knights’ high-powered offense will be the difference maker against the Crimson Tide, lifting them to another New Year’s Six win to finish 13-1 for the 2018 season.

Evan Abramson

Record: 13-1

Postseason: AAC Championship, Orange Bowl loss to Clemson

I don’t think we’ll have a moment in the 2018 season that can compare to that huge kickoff return by Mike Hughes against USF.

However, I think chances are that under the new leadership of Josh Heupel, and with quarterback McKenzie Milton entering his junior year, the Knights will have a good chance of coming close.

The Knights will have another perfect regular season. I can’t see anyone except maybe Navy giving UCF trouble this year, and even then, I see UCF taking down the Midshipmen.

But I think the Knights will return to and again win the AAC championship and that UCF will have convinced the CFB committee that a 26-game win streak with wins over ranked opponents is worthy of being chosen to play in the College Football Playoff.

However, I don’t see UCF making it past the Orange Bowl, which is where I see the team landing and ending its 2018 season. I think the Knights will claim the No. 4 seed, but here’s where I see things getting dicey.

I think that UCF, Alabama, and millions of other people will be begging to see the two teams play. But it won’t happen. And I think that’s because Alabama won’t end up as the No. 1 team in the country.

Instead, I think the Knights will fall to the Clemson Tigers.