UCF’s historic 25-game winning streak came to an end with a 40-32 loss to LSU on New Year’s Day. In eight short months, the Knights will be back at it, looking to start a new streak. What we can likely expect, if history tells us anything, is that UCF will continue its recent run of success. With that said, Knight Sports Now founder Christian Simmons and senior writer Bailey Adams are here with three predictions each for what will unfold in 2019.
Darriel Mack Jr. will break the school record for quarterback rushing touchdowns in a single season- Bailey Adams
Mack’s dual-threat abilities were on full display during his redshirt freshman season. Although he played in parts of several games, he only started three games. In limited action, he ran for six touchdowns. The UCF record for rushing scores by a quarterback in a single season is 12, which was set by Daunte Culpepper in 1998. Considering McKenzie Milton’s horrific injury, it’s safe to assume that Mack will be the signal-caller this fall. In a full season, he’ll be able to break Culpepper’s mark. With his size, Mack should be the go-to guy inside the 10-yard line. Look for plenty of quarterback draws and read-options when UCF enters that part of the field. Plus, as evidenced by his 70-yard score against UConn, his speed makes him a threat in any situation.
Dillon Gabriel will see the field in multiple games- Christian Simmons
As hard as it might be to admit, it looks like Milton’s football career is effectively over. While that means that we have entered the Darriel Mack Era, it’s always important to prepare for the future and Heupel will do just that this season. Thanks to the new redshirt rule, freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel can play in up to four games without burning a year of eligibility. Gabriel has an incredibly high upside and will almost certainly be “the guy” once Mack moves on. With a relatively unproven second string quarterback in Quadry Jones, the coaching staff would be smart to start getting Gabriel some experience this season in garbage time.
The college football world will continue to hurl uninformed *takes* at UCF- BA
Ever since UCF’s undefeated run in 2017 ended with Danny White’s “national champs… undefeated” heard ’round the world, the college football world has been full of opinions on the Knights. Most of the country thinks UCF should “know its place” and accept that it “can’t hang with the big boys.” Despite the fact that the Knights took down Auburn and hung around with LSU, their critics are still just as loud. Since this is the internet in 2019 that we’re talking about, most of these takes about UCF are wildly uninformed. This isn’t exactly a bold prediction, but get ready for another year of those #opinions. Twitter will be full of “UCF should just join a better conference” folks. Their friends, the “Why doesn’t UCF just schedule better opponents?” people, will be around as well. Then, of course, this idea that “UCF should just take the 2-for-1 with Florida” is going to continue on and on, even though no such offer was ever officially made. Because why should facts matter?
UCF’s road trip to Cincinnati will decide the Group of Five New Year’s Six bid- CS
Going into this season, there were a number of Group of Five teams that experts pegged as contenders for the designated New Year’s Six spot. UCF and Boise State were the front runners, but Memphis, FAU and USF were all supposedly going to be in the mix. But this year, the list of teams is much shorter. Boise State won 10 games, but will have a new quarterback next year. Memphis, FAU and USF all had disappointing seasons. Only four G5 teams had NY6-level performances this year: UCF, Cincy, Utah State and Fresno State. While the Aggies and Bulldogs could both be good again this year, the Mountain West hasn’t gotten the bid since the first year of the Playoff. The AAC, however, has sent its champion to a major bowl in three of the last six years and has established itself as the premiere G5 conference. With the Knights and Bearcats coming off 12-1 and 11-2 seasons, respectively, their game next year could be the key factor in who goes to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
UCF will lose a regular season game in 2019- BA
This is definitely going to be an unpopular prediction, but it just feels like it has to happen eventually, doesn’t it? UCF’s run in 2017 and 2018 was impressive. There’s a reason those kinds of runs aren’t too common in today’s college football. Upsets happen all the time, which is something Knights fans are definitely aware of. Memphis had UCF on the ropes twice in 2018, while Temple provided a pretty tough test of its own. UCF will likely be very good again in Josh Heupel’s second season, but perfection isn’t easy. It feels like there’s a loss on the schedule this time around. Whether it’s Stanford, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or an unforeseen conference foe, it feels like it’s coming. If I’m wrong, UCF would be looking at THREE straight undefeated regular seasons, which would truly be something.
Darriel Mack will be a threat to declare for the NFL Draft- CS
UCF has been spoiled the last few years with a star quarterback that didn’t have any real NFL aspirations, but that will change in 2019. Mack, thanks to his NFL frame and arm strength, will almost certainly consider declaring if the Knights have as good of a season as everyone is expecting. He’s 45 pounds heavier than Milton and several inches taller, making his pro potential essentially limitless. Since 2019 will be his third year of eligibility, he may seriously consider moving on if he continues to perform at a high level on the field.