UCF Knights Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
It was a sad-but-entirely-predictable end to an incredible season for UCF. Scott Frost pulled off one of the great turnarounds in college football history, taking UCF from 0-12 the year before he arrived to 13-0 in his second season. In a perfect world he would have stuck around to see how far he could climb in Orlando. But this is far from a perfect world, so Frost was inevitably going to leave for greener pastures - and the fact that the job at his alma mater opened up was just icing on the cake. But the team replaced Frost well, has plenty of talent still around, and doesn't have to fade just because Frost calls Nebraska home again.
2017 in a Nutshell
Storms wreaked havoc with the Knights' schedule as it did for so many southern teams last year. A game against Georgia Tech was cancelled. Memphis was postponed, and a game against Maine had to be cancelled to reschedule that contest. And Austin Peay was added as an in-season replacement for the Tech game. It was a big distraction, but the team didn't let it bother them. It wasn't the toughest schedule in the FBS, but when they faced challenging games they passed those tests with flying colors. They won by 28 at Maryland. By 27 against a Memphis team that climbed all the way to 16th in the polls - which is where they were when UCF beat them for a second time in the conference championship game. They won by 28 at Cincinnati as well and beat a ranked South Florida team. The crowning glory, though, came in the Peach Bowl. Frost had already taken the Nebraska job and taken much of his staff with him, so even though the coaches came back to coach the game it would have been easy for the players to be mentally checked out. But instead they beat an Auburn team that beat national champs Alabama and came within one win of making the playoff. It was an impressive stamp on a very legitimate season.
Key Additions and Departures
Frost and the staff are gone, so the team is starting basically from scratch. They made a strong hire, though, bringing in Josh Heupel, who had been running the offense at Missouri. He was a national title-winning QB at Oklahoma and is a strong offensive coach. He calls his own plays and hasn't named an offensive coordinator, which I hate to see for a new coach, but his offensive staff is solid, and the offense will be very aggressive. Heupel turned the defense over to a veteran, bringing in former Miami head coach and longtime DC Randy Shannon. He's a solid coach who will have a lot of autonomy on the side of the ball. Heupel doesn't know as well, and he has a strong staff under him. All in all, the Knights did an admirable job of replacing a once-in-a-program staff.
Quarterback McKenzie Milton had an amazing year under Frost last year and should have even more room to be creative under the aggressive Heupel, so look for a big year form the fringe Heisman contender again. The team has no safety net, though, as backup Noah Vedral followed Frost to Nebraska, and the depth here is virtually non-existent. They shared the ball widely at running back last year - as a weapon more than as a necessity - and all of their key backs have returned. They lost a receiver and a tight end in the third round of the draft, so there are some changes coming. But when an offense is as productive as this one was, lots of guys get touches, so they should be okay. They also added Ole Miss transfer Tre Nixon, who got immediate eligibility because of the Hugh Freeze debacle. They lose two starters on the line, and this is the weakest group on the offense, but there are still enough options to ensure some upside. Heupel likes to operate fast, which will take some pressure off as well.
The defensive line is a potential area of concern. Several guys who played a lot are gone, and Shannon is shifting from 3-4 to 4-3, so depth is an automatic concern. They will be young but not necessarily lousy. LInebacker is also an area of concern, though the 4-3 shift helps here rather than hurts. Two key guys are gone, including Shaquem Griffin - if you don't think he was the best story in football last year then you have no soul. They still have three seniors, though, including the leading tackler, so it should work out well. The secondary lost corner Mike Hughes in the first round of the draft, and safety Tre Neal went to Nebraska as a grad transfer. But this was generally a very young unit last year, so passing time is a benefit here.
Biggest Area of Concern
The defensive line has the biggest potential to be a problem for the team because of the youth and the change in philosophy. This team will rely in large part on outscoring opponents, but that is easier to do if the opposing quarterback is uncomfortable in the pocket.
UCF Knights Schedule Analysis
They open, oddly, with a conference game at UConn. Randy Edsall has had some time back with the Huskies, but UCF should still come out on top. Then it's a gimme against South Carolina State and another manageable challenge at North Carolina. Then they host FAU in a game that is far more of a fascinating spectacle than it would have been in 2015. In fact, between this offense and Lane Kiffin's, it is almost must-see TV. They close nonconference play at home against Pitt - another winnable game but not a gift. Conference play is fine, with a couple of things that stand out. An Oct. 13 game at Memphis is a de facto conference championship game. And the final stretch of Navy, Cincinnati and at South Florida will require focus.
2018-19 UCF Knights Betting Odds and Trends
The Knights are +25000 to win the national title at Bovada , which puts them behind teams like Nebraska and South Carolina. That's not flattering. They are the +135 favorites to win the AAC. The season win total is set at 9.5, with the "under" mildly favored. McKenzie Milton is a mid-range Heisman contender at +3300.
2018-19 UCF Knights Predictions and College Football Picks
The defense is a concern, and any wholesale coaching change is risky - especially with a first-time coach. But this offense is going to be excellent, and the team will not be fun to play against - especially if the defensive line comes together quickly. I will be quite disappointed if they don't win at least 10.
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