Scott Frost and his Central Florida Knights on coming on ... fast.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s Clemson and Alabama.
It’s Alabama and Clemson.
Pick whichever order you prefer, but it has become that simple when it comes to who stands above – far above – the rest in the college football universe, circa 2017.
In fact, that much is so obvious, it’s almost become boring, a veritable snooze-fest. Just a fait accompli that the two shall meet to determine all the marbles.
For a third straight season.
Which is why we ain’t focusing on those two elite programs right here, right now.
Instead, if you feel like expanding your horizon a bit, cast your mind over to Orlando, Fla., because something is brewing there … quickly – and not just because playing fast has become the selling point for second-year Central Florida head coach Scott Frost.
The reality is that the Knights are positioning themselves to be THE program in the Athletic American Conference and a yearly contender for that Group of Five BCS bowl entrant.
Don’t see it? Don’t believe it?
You will. Quickly.
Put it this way, as an alum of a rival AAC school, it is both painful and frightening to admit this, but it is reality … if we’re being honest here.
UCF last saw the top 25 in 2013 when current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles led it to a Fiesta Bowl victory. It rejoined the polls at No. 25 Monday two days after completely demolishing previously unbeaten Memphis, 40-13. That would be the same Memphis that upset and early-season Heisman front-runner Josh Rosen a few weeks ago.
The 27-point margin of difference only tells part of the story – and it will be a typical one for weeks, months and years to come under Frost’s watch with the Knights.
A former University of Nebraska quarterback and explosive athlete who became just the 10th player in college football history to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season back in 1997, Frost got in six seasons with NFL teams before embarking on a coaching career that has seen him serve as a grad assistant, linebackers coach, wide receivers coach, defensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in the college ranks before landing the gig in Orlando.
Taking over a team that went 0-12 in George O’Leary’s last season at the helm, Frost has turned the program around in ridiculously short order, having won 9 of 16 games since the start of 2016.
He values speed and athleticism over all else, and being situated in the state that produces the most, and best, of both, the Knights are golden … even if they have dropped that description off their official nickname.
Frost wants talent – fast talent across the board – in the fold, regardless of preconceived specific-position skill sets, and plans to mold not just it to fit his program, but his program to fit it. His current QB, McKenzie Miller, is a perfect example of that, and would remind many of … well, Frost as a player: athletic, explosive, strong. Not necessarily your typical guy to run an offense, but, man, dangerous as hell and getting more QB savvy all the time.
Call it morphing. Call it adapting. Whatever you call it, it’s actual coaching, and will work – big time at UCF – and, as early returns have shown, it already has.
In its first three games this season, UCF has racked up 587, 428 and 603 yards of offense in blowout wins against Florida International, Maryland and the Tigers.
Frankly, the only reason that middle number is less than 500 is the pounding the Knights started putting on the Terrapins right out of the chute. There was no need to pile up any more yards, never mind points, in a 38-10 runaway … on the road, against the big, bad Big Ten’s most pleasant surprise in 2017.
About the only thing standing between UCF and total AAC dominance is the presence of South Florida, located just two hours away on I-4. But USF has Charlie Strong in charge while UCF has Forst. Edge, from here: UCF. Big time.
AROUND THE NATION
Bad Move, Bud: Considering the allegations that started to arise at Baylor University before his hiring and then totally blossomed after, Matt Rhule was kinda expected to see some rough days in Waco, Texas, this fall … and maybe for a few falls to come. But 0-5 overall, 0-2 Big 12 Conference rough? That’s a bit extreme, especially when you consider the Bears opened with FBS newbie Liberty and University of Texas-San Antonio at home.
Ouch. About the only saving grace for Rhule is that the program he bailed on in North Philly, Temple, ain’t doing so hot, either. The Owls are just 2-3, 0-2 AAC less than 10 months after winning the whole damn circuit. That being said, Temple can’t go winless now. Baylor certainly can.
Common Sense: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney can be quite the quipster pre-game, post-game and probably on the recruiting circuit, and he a brilliant one following Saturday night’s solid, 31-17 victory at up-and-coming Virginia Tech. Presented with the info that his Tigers just became the first team ever to beat three top-15 teams in the month of September in one season, he was asked his thoughts on that.
To which, Swinney responded: “Really? Wow … well, OK, how many teams actually have faced three top-15 teams in the month of September in one season?” Who knows, and not that it matters. The fact Clemson plays such a tough schedule is a testament to where the coach has his program.
A Tad Lopsided: Check this out – Alabama, Georgia and Auburn each are 2-0 in SEC play thus far in 2017. The real story, though, is that they have outscored their conference competition 297-30, with the Tide (125-3) leading the way, the Bulldogs showing similar stinginess (72-3) and the Tigers similar firepower (100-24).
Did You Know: Only three teams rank among the country’s top 10 in points scored and points allowed thus far this fall. They would be No. 1 Alabama (first in PA and eighth in PS), No. 6 Washington (fourth in PA, 10th in PS) and No. 25 Central Florida (seventh in both).
Those three, along with No. 4 Penn State, are the only schools in the nation to have a scoring differential in excess of 30 points per game. Aalabama (37.6) leads the way there, too, followed by Washington (33.2), Penn State (32.0) and UCF (31.5).