UCF 2023 College Football Preview – Coming In Sunny

Written by Garin Turner

Week zero is in the books and tonight brings the start of week one in the 2023-24 college football season. UCF begins its first year as a member of the Big 12 after previously being in the American Athletic Conference. UCF were 9-5 last year including an appearance in the Military Bowl against Duke which saw the Blue Devils victorious 30-13.

Head coach Gus Malzahn enters his third season with the Knights. He holds an 18-9 record and 95-47 overall. The offense returns six starters from last year. The Knights have John Rhys Plumlee back as their starting QB this year. Last year was Plumlee’s first season with the Knights, having transferred from Ole Miss. Plumlee completed 63% of his passes for 2,586 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also led the team in rushing yards with 862 yards and second in touchdowns with 11. 

One of Plumlee’s top targets will have to be replaced as Ryan O’Keefe transferred to Boston College. Javon Baker (56 catches, a team-high 796 yards, 5 TDs), and Kobe Hudson (39 catches, 641 yards, and a team-high 7 TDs) both return. Also returning is TE Alec Holler (22 catches, 276 yards, 1 TD), and two offensive linemen LokahiPauole and Tylan Grable.

RB RJ Harvey (796 yards, 5 TDs) takes over as the starter.

On the defensive side, UCF caused 18 turnovers and accumulated 22 sacks last season. The defense returns six starters from a year ago. Defensive End Josh Celiscar (54 tackles, 8.5 TFL), defensive tackle Ricky Barber (49 tackles, 9 TFL), linebackers Jason Johnson (126 tackles), and Tre’mon Morris-Brash (52 tackles and team-highs 13 TFL, six sacks). Cornerback Corey Thornton (50 tackles, a team-high in pass breakups with seven) and safety Quadric Bullard (27 tackles).

On special teams both the kicker Colton Boomer (14 of 15) and punter Mitch McCarthy (43.3-yard average on 38 punts) return. 

On the transfer side of things, UCF brought in 19 during the offseason. Eight of those transfers are listed to start on offense and five on defense.

UCF opens the season tonight against Kent State at 7 PM EST on FS1. Both games against currently ranked opponents are on the road (#16 Kansas State week 4, #20 Oklahoma week 7.)

Season Schedule

Aug.31 Kent State

Sept.9 @ Boise State

Sept.16 Villanova

Sept23 @ 16 Kansas State

Sept.30 Baylor

Oct.7 @ Kansas

Oct.21 @ 20 Oklahoma

Oct.28 West Virginia

Nov.4 @ Cincinnati

Nov.11 Oklahoma State

Nov.18 @ Texas Tech

Nov.25 Houston

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