Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 1 Central Florida.
Here we are. You, the glorious Deadspin readers, have selected none other than UCF as your No. 1 team. Congratulations.
I’m sure plenty of you are wondering exactly how this happened, so here it is: As it turns out, one determined fan decided to go all Elliot Alderson on us and rig our system (which is totally within the rules and encouraged) by creating a mechanism that repeatedly cast votes for UCF, thus giving the Knights the No. 1 slot in our poll, edging Ohio State by a mere 60,309 votes. Well done sir/madame.
There have been plenty of complaints that this poll was too normal and boring, and while I’d agree, you guys are the ones who did this, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Since there was no #MACtion to be had, the UCF superfan was really the saving grace here, so be sure to thank them for their services. Now, on to the Knights.
First off, Central Florida, football aside, is just a shitty place. On top of the fact that the majority of Orlando resident have no idea that this place even exists, those that do are forced to deal with the fact that the school’s layout looks just like a fucking mall.
A mall masquerading as the nation’s largest university.
Lookit, there’s even a Barnes & Noble! That’s a mall, man.
The school’s sole endearing quality is that unlike the rest of the Florida schools, it’s not in the middle of nowhere; it’s more or less for Miami kids who don’t want to keep driving up the Turnpike. That being said, they do play some pretty good football down there. (Did you know they beat Georgia?)
Coming off a 2013 campaign that ended with an upset of Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and an 11-1 record, last year brought an expected drop off for the Knights (losing Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson will do that to a program), but they still managed to come away with a 9-4 record. The offense was a shell of its former self, but the defense stepped up, holding opponents to 19.2 points per game (good for 9th in the nation) and finishing fifth in total defense. But with just 10 total starters returning for 2015, UCF’s quest for a third-straight AAC title will be a tough, and probably unsuccessful, one.
Quarterback Justin Holman had about as big a pair shoes to fill as anyone in college football last year, as he was faced with the task of replacing Bortles as just a sophomore. Even so, Holman held his own under center, throwing for 2,592 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He wasn’t always pretty or consistent, but he showed enough promise throughout the year to establish himself as the starter going into the offseason; his follow-up campaign, however, is probably going to be filled with even more tough sledding than the first.
The Knights had quite the stable of receivers last year, with Breshard Perriman cracking 1,000 yards and three others topping 500, but 2015 graduation was brutal. UCF is now woefully inexperienced at receiver, as its top returning wide out, Jordan Akins, has just 12 career receptions for 137 yards. There’s plenty of young talent in the wings, but to expect them all to go from sub-100-yard seasons to 500-plus is probably a bit ambitious.
The secondary, much like the receiving corps, fell victim to graduation, as UCF lost all four starters, with sophomore Jacoby Glenn declaring early for the NFL following his highly-successful 2014 campaign. The defense will also have to replace two of its three starting linebackers, one of which was last year’s leading tackler. All things considered, if you’re expecting the Knights to return to the same defensive form they took in all games not against Missouri, UConn, and N.C. State, don’t hold your breath.
A Guy To Know
Holman is your guy to know mainly because aside from running back William Stanback, he’s the only hope the offense has. The junior has a big arm (see above video), and come 2016, when his receivers are experienced and a bit more skilled, he’ll probably have a field day tearing apart the AAC, which I look forward to watching, but this year is going to be a struggle.
Can They Make The Playoff?
Oh, for sure, man. For sure.
This year’s team will probably struggle to put together eight wins, and winning the AAC will be an accomplishment in and of itself. It helps that the AAC was drained of some pretty big names, but still, with a non-existent receiving corps and depleted defense, I think we can rest assured that the Deadspin 25 is about the only poll that’s going to include this team, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me.
Is The Coach A Dick?
George O’Leary is not exactly college football’s golden boy. On-field success aside, he kind of sucks. He lied to Notre Dame on his resume and was forced to resign just five days later as a result. And though the UCF Athletics Association took the rap for the on-field death of Ereck Plancher, who died from what a medical examiner determined to be sickle cell complications after being forced to run an obstacle course, O’Leary bears a lot of responsibility as the head coach. This is a dude who was accused of denying players water as punishment and generally acting like a dick during practices. From the Orlando Sentinel’s story on the Plancher family’s lawsuit:
When Tice was asked whether O’Leary ever ordered athletic trainers or water be removed from the fieldhouse, he responded he did not recall. His testimony differed from former players Anthony Davis, Cody Minnich and Brian Watters, who said O’Leary ordered the athletic trainers and water be removed.
He was asked if he could cite an example of O’Leary’s treatment of players. Tice responded, “The one that stands out for me personally was probably — it was my third practice there at UCF, first week had to have been, of fall camp, a true freshman I had no idea, you know, what’s going on in the offense, and I ran a play, and I took a — a sack or it was a loss of yards, and he just came up to me and grabbed me by the face mask and said what the [video skipped for removal of explicative] you doing, throw the [video skipped for removal expletive] ball away. That was — like I still remember that, but grabbed me by the face mask, you know, I’ve never really had anyone do that to me.”
And here’s Judge Judy Berger on the case after the Plancher family’s reward was lowered from $10 million to $200,000:
“My opinion regarding the enforceability of the release should not be interpreted to condone the egregious conduct of the UCFAA coaching staff,” Berger wrote in the 28-page ruling. “Indeed, as it appears and as the jury found, it was both the coaching staff’s actions and inactions that led to the tragic death of Ereck Plancher. It is difficult to comprehend how one human being can ignore another in obvious distress or prevent someone else from offering aid to one in distress, but, inexplicably, that is what happened here.”
O’Leary can build a team, sure, but this sounds like a truly rotten dude. Luckily for us and all athletes at Central Florida, he was handed the position of interim athletic director back in June. Cool, cool UCF.
Will Central Florida Do It?
Nah, son. This team probably won’t Do It in the AAC, and if that’s Not Doing It, then nothing is.
Sept. 3: FIU
Sept. 12: @ Stanford
Sept. 19: Furman
Sept. 26: @ South Carolina
Oct. 3: @ Tulane
Oct. 10: UConn
Oct. 17: @ Temple
Oct. 24: Houston
Oct. 31: @ Cincinnati
Nov. 7: @ Tulsa
Nov. 19: East Carolina
Nov. 26: South Florida