School is back in session, and with it comes a brand new season of college football. While last season’s defensive woes and ultimately bowl-less season are blocked off in most Tech fans’ minds, one storyline from last season remains relevant: the cancelled University of Central Florida game.
Last September, the Jackets were scheduled to travel down to Orlando, Florida to take on the UCF Knights in what was then a highly anticipated matchup. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean and southeastern United States the week the Jackets were scheduled to play, affecting the UCF campus. As a result, after much deliberation about potential alternatives to playing in Orlando such as moving the game to Bobby Dodd Stadium or postponing the game to later in the season, the match was indefinitely postponed.
On August 17, Tech Football announced on Twitter that the game has been officially rescheduled for September 24, 2022. While the scheduled game is four years away and feature new rosters on both sides, UCF still poses an interesting matchup for the Jackets, especially considering the circumstances surrounding last year’s postponed game.
Although at first glance the cancelled match does not seem to have had a significant bearing on last season as a whole, if the game had been played, it could have been a season-changer for either team that won. The Jackets finished 5-6 last season, which left them one win shy of bowl eligibility. But had Tech faced off against the Knights and brought home a win, the resulting 6-6 record would have qualified Tech for a bowl game — a hallmark of a successful season for many programs.
On the other side of the field, UCF finished the season undefeated with a perfect 13-0 record after their Peach Bowl win over Auburn. They finished 6th in the AP rankings as the only undefeated team in the top 25. Despite their perfect record, however, they did not qualify for the College Football Playoffs due to a weak strength of schedule. Could a win over Tech have pushed them over the edge into the elite four teams that qualify to compete for a national title? No one can say for sure how the scenario where Tech and UCF did play last season would have affected the fate of either team, but it’s undeniable that the game could’ve had major implications for the winning team.
Despite what could have been, fans still have something to look forward to in the 2022 game. Even though the Knights aren’t in a “Power 5” division to which most successful D1 teams (the Power 5 divisions are the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, and Pac 12), UCF boasts a high-scoring, pass-first offense that can give any defense in the country a run for their money. Their offensive playstyle is a direct contrast to Tech’s, as the Jackets feature a run-first style offense through the triple option – in that sense, the matchup should at least be an entertaining one.
Even though UCF is coming off a historically successful season, they are undergoing coaching changes in both the head coach and defensive coordinator positions. Scott Frost, who led the team to their perfect record in 2017, left the organization to coach at Nebraska this offseason, replaced by Josh Heupel, ex Heisman runner-up and former Missouri offensive coordinator. As a part of this coaching transition, Heupel is hiring Randy Shannon (Florida’s defensive coordinator/interim head coach) as UCF’s new defensive coordinator. With the success that UCF enjoyed last year as an undefeated team, it is hard to imagine that these coaching changes will bring about major changes in the team’s playstyle. However, after four years of personnel changes and the coaches grooming the team dynamic to their liking, the Jackets will be facing off against a new and, if they continue on their trend, exciting opponent.