UCF Knights at Akron Zips – InfoCision Stadium, Akron, Ohio
7:00 pm EST – ESPN3
Terry Bowden returns to the FBS after three years coaching the North Alabama Lions in Division II in an opening night NCAA Football match-up with Central Florida. Bowden served as an assistant at Akron in 1986 before his head coaching career began with the Samford Bulldogs, followed by the Auburn Tigers who he led to an undefeated season in his first year in 1993. Bowden will have to rebuild a program that went 2-22 overall in their past two seasons under former head coach Rob Ianello. Bowden enlisted former NC State Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato as Akron’s new defensive coordinator.
The Zips had a big question mark in the offseason surrounding the quarterback position, but Stephen F. Austin transfer Dalton Williams made a late push and has won the job as Akron’s starting signal caller. In his career as the Lumberjack’s backup QB, Williams completed 72-of-110 attempts for 724 yards and seven touchdowns.
The odds are heavily stacked in UCF’s favor as the Knights are expected to have a strong season to close out their tenure in Conference USA before heading to the Big East in 2013. However, head coach George O’Leary’s Central Florida squad may be ineligible for post season play as the Knights received a one-year ban due to a recruiting scandal that also affected the basketball program. The university has appealed the NCAA’s decision and is awaiting the results; more than likely, the punishment will hold but for which season (2012 or 2013) is the question.
UCF will return both players from its own quarterback controversy in 2011, but Jeff Godfrey was converted to wide receiver on the offseason, leaving sophomore Blake Bortles as the sole starting QB for 2012. Last season, Bortles completed 68.2% of his passes for 958 yards and six touchdowns while throwing three picks in 110 attempts. Using a three-back system of Miami Hurricanes transfer Storm Johnson, Latavius Murray and Brynn Harvey, the Knights should have a balanced offensive attack against an Akron defense that allowed 427 yards of total offense (94th) and 38.5 points per game (116th) last season.
The Knights return several players from a defense that was ranked ninth in the nation in both total defense (303.3) and scoring defense (18.3) a year ago. The talented defense should not have much trouble against an Akron offense that was 118th in the country in scoring (14.2 ppg) and 115th in total offense (277.8 ypg), despite the upgraded coaching staff and serviceable quarterback.
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