The UCF offense entered this season with some uncertainty after losing some key players from last year’s 9-win team. Those concerns were put to rest pretty quickly after their offense walked down the field against an overmatched South Carolina State team. Gus Malzahn has shown again that his system can reload quickly as long as he has a strong signal caller.
John Rhys Plumlee made the decision to transfer away from Ole Miss after last season in a quest to be a starting quarterback after being moved to wide receiver. He couldn’t have picked a better spot than UCF. The ultra-athletic quarterback used his legs last weekend to run for 100 yards but his ability to pass the ball in this system really stood out. He had the best game of his career as a passer, completing 65% of his passes and four touchdowns. Louisville will be in for another big test as Plumlee is not only a good runner but also a threat to score anytime he leaves the pocket.
Louisville was able to slow down UCF’s rushing attack for half of the game last season with Isiah Bowser being kept in check. The second half was a different story as Johnny Richardson ended up running for 101 yards on only 9 carries. That obviously can’t happen again if the Cards want to come home with a win. Richardson is a threat to break big runs while Bowser is more of a power back. Containing them and putting the offense in long third downs will be important.
The Knights lost some of their firepower at wide receiver but they mined the transfer portal well to bring in some talented options. Javon Baker is a transfer from Alabama who couldn’t push his way into the rotation. He is coming off of a game where he pulled in five passes. Kobe Hudson led Auburn in catches last season but he didn’t record a stat last week. Bringing in talent from the SEC is obviously big for UCF. Throw in Kemore Gamble at tight end and you have three guys who played at the SEC level lining up for an offense that knows how to use them.
Ryan O’Keefe is the guy on offense that worries me the most. O’Keefe had a long touchdown in the game last year but his ability to take a short pass and make a play is what makes him such a key player. Sometimes you just need 6-8 yards to keep a drive going and that’s where he is the big factor. UofL will have to tackle better than they did last week or they will keep giving up long drives.
The UCF offensive line is a mix of veterans and newcomers. Ryan Svoboda transferred in from Virginia and took over at right tackle. Matt Lee returns at center and has been named to the Rimington Award watch list. While there aren’t any glaring weaknesses, the offense didn’t run the ball exceptionally well at the running back position last weekend. There’s some potential here for Louisville as the two guard positions are manned by new starters. Can some of the looks, games, and stunts the Cards run up front cause some confusion?