Know the Foe: UCF
A look at UCF, which plays USF on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium
Record: 6-5 (4-3 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: South Carolina State 38-0, at FIU 51-14, at East Carolina 47-29, at Connecticut 24-16, Tulane 37-6, Cincinnati 24-3
Losses: at Michigan 51-14, Maryland 30-24 (2OT), Temple 26-25, at Houston 31-24, Tulsa 35-20
Coach: Scott Frost (first season, 6-5)
The breakdown: At this stage, it's reasonable for Knights fans to ask whether UCF commissioned a statue for the wrong coach. Frost, who inherited a winless team from George O'Leary, has the Knights 16 points from being 9-2. While mostly associated with the caffeinated offensive pace he brought from Oregon, it's his 3-4 base defense that has sparked the resurrection. A year after ranking 113th nationally in total defense (464.1 ypg), the Knights rank 35th (370.6 ypg) and are 10th in the country in pass-efficiency defense (104.25). Among coordinator Erik Chinander's most significant moves: switching S Shaquem Griffin to outside linebacker. The Lakewood High alumnus, who had his left hand amputated at age 4 due to a rare birth defect, leads the AAC with 10 solo sacks and ranks eighth with 80 tackles. "You're kind of like, in awe when you watch him play," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said. Griffin's twin brother, Shaquill, leads the league with 16 passes defended at cornerback. Offensively, things have been quite bumpier; UCF ranks 109th nationally with 357.8 yards per game. But freshman QB McKenzie Milton, a Hawaii native
seemingly born for the Oregon-style offense, has thrown only one pick his last three games. His top target is sophomore Tre'Quan Smith (47 catches, 625 yards, three TDs), the 2015 AAC Offensive Rookie of the Year. Also watch for diminutive freshman Adrian Killins, a two-time Florida prep state champ in the 200-meter dash who had a 100-yard kick return against East Carolina. In his second collegiate carry, at Michigan, Killins broke off an 87-yard TD run.
Odds and ends: In addition to the Griffin twins, UCF's roster features eight other players from bay area high schools. Five locals start for UCF -- the Griffins, LT Aaron Evans (Armwood), S T.J. Mutcherson (Freedom) and DE Tony Guerad (Tampa Bay Tech). Evans has started 23 consecutive games. ... More than 70 percent of the Knights' offensive points have been scored by freshmen or sophomores. ... If Saturday's game comes down to a field goal, the Knights presumably feel pretty good about sophomore Matthew Wright, 12-of-17 in his UCF career from 40-49 yards. ... The last team to reach a bowl a year after going winless? That also would be UCF (2004-05).
Willie Taggart's take: "This team could easily be sitting at nine wins right now. ...They’re really good on defense – running around and getting turnovers and not only getting takeaways, but they’re turning them into touchdowns. They find a way to get in the end zone, so we’ve got to be really smart with the football."