2009 Could Be Big Year For UCF, O'Leary

NCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 29: George O'Leary, head coach of the UCF Knights reacts after holding the Mississippi State Bulldogs to a field goal during the 49th Annual Autozone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium December 29, 2007 in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Sports fans are known to be superstitious. They believe in lucky hats and lucky spots on the couch. To be perfectly frank, they place their faith in things that have absolutely nothing to do with a football game. UCF fans are doing the same. They know this is going to be a good season for the Knights.

Why? It's 2009, of course.

Head Coach George O'Leary ALWAYS fares better in odd-numbered years. In 2007, for example, he coached the Knights to a conference championship and a bowl game. On even-numbered years, however, he has never won more than five games. In fact, in 2006 and 2008, UCF produced just four wins a season. 

That pattern alone has UCF followers excited for the upcoming season. They should be, for reasons besides the calendar year. The Knights might have went 4-8 last season, but they did so in impressive fashion. Not convinced? Let me explain.

When you look at the results from last season, there are a couple of groan-inducing scores. The Knights lost to UTEP and Tulsa by a combined 75 points (58-13 and 49-19, respectively). But upon closer inspection, you realize that it's not as bad as it looks. 

The Knights had two big games last year- a home game against rival USF and a road game against Miami. Those are the types of games you circle on your calendar in red, the games you use to motivate your team through practices in the blazing Florida heat.

UCF went into the USF game with a chip on their shoulder. USF had decided that they were too good to be playing UCF. The Bulls had walloped the Knights 64-12 in 2007. They were in a BCS conference. They needed a bigger, more beastly rival. In their opinion, the Knights didn't fit that criteria. Yet, after the first half the score was even. After the fourth quarter, the teams were deadlocked. The Bulls scored in overtime and won the game 31-24. One touchdown. USF didn't think that UCF belonged on the same field as them, yet had to fight for the win. That game went down as a loss for UCF, but for the program it was a moral victory. The Knights could hang with the Bulls. In fact, they had come within one possession of beating them.

A little over a month later, UCF traveled south to Miami. Once again, they hung with a BCS team, They never led, but held the Hurricanes scoreless in the second and third quarters. They, once again, came within a possession of beating a well-known, established football program who had perceived them as a "gimme game."

This season, UCF will play Miami at home and Texas on the road. Those are the games that define a program. The Knights are not in a BCS conference (yet) but if they can continue to hang with and perhaps beat a notable program, they won't be the "gimme game" they have been in the past.

This is the year for the Knights to put UCF football on the map. They have the calendar on their side. They also have a heck of a lot of potential.  


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