The 2017 UCF football season kicks off in just a couple weeks. Coach Scott Frost came to Orlando last season and helped the Knights to a six-win improvement, which means expectations will be even higher this year. In this opponent preview series, we’ll be breaking down each team that UCF will see this fall.
Week 12 (Nov. 18, Time and TV TBA): at Temple Owls
Last Year: 10-4 (7-1 American)
Last Meeting: Temple 26, UCF 25 (Oct. 15, 2016)
All-time series: Series tied 2-2
In 2016, Temple needed a last-second touchdown to beat UCF in Orlando. It put a damper on the Knights’ homecoming week, but played a key role in the Owls’ conference championship run. It was the start of a seven-game winning streak for them, with the seventh win coming against Navy in the AAC Championship Game.
From there, things went downhill for the program. It lost its head coach to Baylor on Dec. 6, then dropped its bowl game to Wake Forest on Dec. 27. Former UCF assistant coach Geoff Collins, who interviewed for the Knights’ coaching job at the end of 2015, takes over with the task of keeping Temple at the top.
Temple isn’t typically an offensive powerhouse. The unit doesn’t lack skill, though. Redshirt senior Keith Kirkwood, senior Adonis Jennings and redshirt junior Ventell Bryant make up a tough receiving corps. The three combined for over 2,000 yards last year and finished with four touchdowns apiece. Junior running back Ryquell Armstead also returns after rushing for 919 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Then, to support that group, the Owls will field an offensive line that consists of three starters from 2016 and one from 2015. Despite all of that, one big question mark for the offense could determine its success this fall.
Temple needs to find its next quarterback, but it has four unproven signal-callers to decide from. The four have collectively attempted 11 passes at the collegiate level. If one doesn’t emerge as a reliable option, the rest of the talent on offense could go to waste.
Defense has always been a strength for Temple, which should continue under the defensive-minded Collins. Replacing Hasson Reddick, a first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, is going to be a challenge. As if that isn’t enough, the Owls also lost three starting linebackers and two linemen. There is a lot to replace, but the secondary should be just fine. At safety, junior Delvon Randall and senior Sean Chandler are back, while cornerbacks Artrel Foster (redshirt senior) and Derrick Thomas (redshirt junior) will hold things down on the outside. Having that much experience back there will be a plus, but youth will need to develop and step in up front if Temple wants to continue its defensive prowess in 2017.
ESPN FPI’s win probability favors the Owls in just three games this year, but it would be shocking if they sink that low. Not everyone agrees with those numbers, as they came in at third in the AAC East in the preseason media poll. That would leave Temple behind only USF and UCF in the division, which wouldn’t be the worst step down considering the transition period that the program is going through. If a quarterback steps up and the defense finds some answers, Temple can continue its recent string of success. However, those are some big ifs.
Final Thoughts: Temple pulled out a last-second win in Orlando last year, handing UCF one of its most heartbreaking losses in recent memory. The Knights face the Owls in Philadelphia this year. With the matchup coming in mid-November, the weather may not be too friendly. But after some tougher tests earlier in the season, UCF should be up to another one. It feels like this one could go either way, but the rebuilding process for Temple may not be finished just yet.