The 2017 UCF football season kicks off in just a few months. 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 3 (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., ESPNews): vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last Year: 9-4 (4-4 ACC)
Last Meeting: Georgia Tech 21, UCF 17 (Sept. 2, 2000)
All-time series: Georgia Tech leads 3-0
In week three of the 2017 season, UCF will welcome Georgia Tech to Spectrum Stadium. It will be the fourth meeting ever between the two programs, but the first in Orlando. The visit will be the first by an ACC opponent since UCF beat Boston College 30-3 in 2011. The Yellow Jackets finished 9-4 last year, closing the season with four consecutive wins. They’re usually competitive, and they should be again this fall.
The Yellow Jackets’ option-heavy offense is never easy to defend, but it’s missing a proven quarterback as the season approaches. Last year’s starter is gone, so the Jackets need someone to replace him. Redshirt junior Matthew Jordan will compete for the job with junior TaQuon Marshall and two redshirt freshmen. Regardless, the new quarterback will have last year’s leading receiver (redshirt senior Ricky Jeune) and leading rusher (sophomore Dedrick Mills) back, as well as most of the other big producers. However, there may be some youth along the offensive line that will need to develop very quickly to get Tech on the right track this year.
Defensively, the Jackets have some work to do up front. Patrick Gamble (team-high 7 ½ sacks in 2016) and Francis Kallon both graduated, so there are a couple of holes on the line’s interior. The uncertainty of such a key spot on the defense is something the team will have to keep an eye on. The Jackets also need to replace P.J. Davis, a three-year starter at the strongside linebacker position. Despite some holes up front, there is some serious experience in the secondary. Redshirt senior defensive back Corey Griffin led the team in tackles last year. He also finished last season tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, along with seniors Lance and Lawrence Austin, who also return this fall.
Georgia Tech is replacing its kicker and punter this fall, which is a much bigger deal than some might think. The new kicker will have big shoes to fill in replacing Harrison Butker, who was 15-of-17 on field goals last year and perfect on extra points. The punting situation is one that the team will obviously need to figure out quickly, as field position can make or break any game.
Georgia Tech always seems to be in the mix when it comes to the ACC Coastal division race. Despite some big replacements the team will have to make, it should still be very competitive. How quickly the Jackets find a solution at quarterback may be what determines the trajectory of Tech’s season.
Final Thoughts: Any power five matchup is significant for UCF. This one should be no different, but the crowd will be rocking simply due to the buzz that an upset win would bring. However, after a tough season opener against Tennessee and a home game in week two, the Jackets should be locked in and ready for their trip to Orlando.