Many thanks to Chas over at Underdog Dynasty for making this week's Q&A a reality. While it might not be pretty on the football field Saturday when the Gamecocks and Knights meet at Williams-Brice, it sure should be interesting. Here's a closer look at the 2015 UCF Knights:
1. I have to start with the latest news coming out of UCF's campus. What are your thoughts on the dismissal of all-conference running back William Stanback? What kind of position does this put the Knights offense in come Saturday?
For the long answer, take a look at my post on the rise (sort of) and fall of Will Stanback.
The short answer is that it's a pity because he showed so much promise back in 2013. But I don't want to overstate the impact on the game - Stanback plummeted down the depth chart and has been terrible this year when he did carry the ball. Big asterisk here: the Knights only have two scholarship running backs now, so UCF is in a dire position depth wise.
2. Much like the Gamecocks, it looks like the Knights have been hit with some inexperience, coupled with injuries at the quarterback position to start the season. Who looks to be the likely starter at QB in Columbia?
My flip answer is that it doesn't matter, both are terrible right now. I think Bo Schneider will start (true freshman, 14/30 for 109 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs on the season). Maybe you'll see some Tyler Harris too (redshirt freshman, 14/32 for 131 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs). Expect to see some wildcat with Boise State transfer and former back-up UCF QB Nick Patti. Patti was converted to wide receiver (unwisely, I think, in light of where injuries have put us).
3. Something's gotta give when the Gamecocks defense (ranked 108 of 127 in total defense) meets the Knights offense (last in FBS in total offense) on the field. What has been the biggest struggle for UCF's offense this season? And is there much hope for improving given Tuesday's news?
Dang. When you're dead last it's hard to identify just one struggle on offense, eh? Right now I'll hang it on the QB play until Holman returns. But I could pick nearly anything here.
There is no serious hope to meaningfully improve tomorrow. But I don't suggest that hinges on the Stanback news.
3.The State newspaper in Columbia, SC cited sophomore receiver Chris Johnson as a playmaking threat for the Knights offense. Is he the go to guy at this point?
Nah. The guy has six catches on the year so far averaging 8.8 yards per reception.
The most promising playmaker this year was Sophomore WR Akins who is, you guessed it, injured and out for the year. The second most promising playmaker is redshirt freshman Tre'Quan Smith.
4. Who is the Knights playmaker on defense that the Gamecocks need to spot come Saturday?
Sophomore linebacker Chequan Burkett, who has been very physical. He's been an impact player, with a forced fumble against FIU and a sack for a safety against Furman.
6. What type of team do you expect to take the field for UCF after a disappointing loss to Furman last week?
It will still be a disaster.
7. Rumors have been tossed around that head coach George O'Leary may be more interested in gaining the AD spot full-time at UCF than coaching the football team. Do you see his time as football coach coming to end after this season to assume that position?
UCF and O'Leary have tremendous mutual loyalty. It's easy to see him wanting to slide up to the AD gig full time and install Brent Key, the successor he has groomed, as the new head coach.
But: given where this season is going, we'll see if any of that gets derailed.
8. Just two years ago these two teams met in Orlando, each riding a wave of success as the teams finished a combined 23-3. And the Knights held their own last year to a 9-4 record. How has the team seemingly fallen this far? Or, have they just faced rough circumstances and haven't had the ball bounce their way so far this year?
2013 was great: first ever AAC Champions and a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. We were happy that the 2014 team reprised the conference championship (though sharing it in a three way tie), despite Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson leaving early for the NFL. Following last year, WR Breshad Perriman (now on the Ravens) left early as did CB Jacoby Glenn.
This is just not a very good team. Even after a terrible opening loss to FIU, the Knights could have scrapped something together and - I think - gotten bowl eligible. But not with the injury luck that occurred afterwards. Now it feels like there's no "bottom" to how low this Knights squad could sink.