Big 12 Media Days are right around the corner, which means the 2023 college football season is less than two months away.
The burning questions for every team are starting to build some momentum and at media days we will finally get the answers to some of those questions.
As each fanbase prepares itself for another season of Big 12 football, we’re here to help with the three biggest questions that each team is facing before heading to Arlington for Media Days on July 12-13.
With that being said, here are the three biggest questions that the UCF Knights are facing heading into 2023 Big 12 Football Media Days.
Is UCF Ready to Take the Power Five Leap?
It’s a fair question and one that each of the new Big 12 schools will face heading into the 2023 season. UCF has been a consistent power at the Group of Five level for several years, but jumping into the Big 12 is going to present an entirely different challenge. The Knights will face Kansas State, Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech in 2023 among the rest of their schedule. That looks a little different than their AAC conference schedule up until now. Now, of the four newcomers, I do feel that the Knights are the best equipped to compete in the Big 12 right away, and I’m not alone in that sentiment. UCF landed at No. 8 in the Big 12 Media Preseason Poll, three spots ahead of the next newcomer, BYU. It’s not going to be an easy transition for any of the new teams, but it does appear that UCF is set up to have the smoothest onboarding process of the bunch.
What Does Success in Year 1 Look Like?
The last time UCF moved conferences was 2013, when the Knights jumped from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference, and they won the AAC after an 11-1 regular season before beating Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the year 12-1. While that jump wasn’t quite as big as what they have before them now, it’s safe to wonder: What would be considered a successful first season in the Big 12? With the conference slate that we mentioned above, it’s tough to see a 12-1 year in UCF’s future. However, there’s a part of me that expects them to compete in their first year. Coming off a 9-5 season, UCF has 15 starters returning, including dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. If he can stay healthy, the Knights’ offense should get up to speed in the Big 12 fairly quickly. Defensively, UCF will be facing some potent offenses against K-State Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, which means there might be some shootouts in Year 1. I would say that a 9-3 or 10-2 season would be absolutely incredible for the Knights, but something like 8-4 or 7-5 is much more likely. Making a bowl in their first season of Big 12 play would be considered a success, and anything less would be disappointing.
Can The Bounce House Live Up to Its Reputation?
When coming into a new conference, fan bases are typically fired up for some new competition. That certainly seems to be the case for UCF fans in this scenario, as the Big 12 home opener against Baylor sold out months in advance. In addition to the Bears coming to town, UCF will also host West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Houston. Realistically, every one of those games is winnable for Gus Malzahn’s group, and if the UCF fanbase does its part, the Bounce House’s reputation as one of the rowdiest places to play could carry over into its new conference. UCF’s stadium capacity of 45,301 is just 161 fans larger than Baylor’s McLane Stadium, making it the fourth-smallest venue in the new-look Big 12. However, the atmosphere at UCF games have been known to get rowdy, and that will fit right in in the Big 12. So, UCF fans, this is your one shot at a first impression. Can you make the Big 12’s existing members nervous for their next trip back to Orlando? If you can defend the Bounce House in Year 1, that would go a long, long way.