2:58 PM PST, November 24, 2012
Feel free to roll your eyes or shake your head emphatically if you've heard this one before:
The University of Central Florida football team is on the verge of something big.
The University of Central Florida football team is on the verge of another major disappointment.
It could go either way. Flip a coin.
Will we see the dominant UCF team — the one that blew out UAB in its regular-season home finale Saturday afternoon —match up against Tulsa next weekend in the Conference-USA championship game?
Or will we see the team that got run over by Tulsa just a few weeks ago, when the Knights blew the opportunity to host the championship game on their home turf?
It's obvious that the Knights don't need to feed off a raucous crowd at Bright House Networks Stadium, since plenty of good sections were available on a beautiful Saturday afternoon against UAB. There seemed to be about a couple hundred fans in the student section. You have to wonder if the rest of the 57,800 students enrolled at UCF went on a weekend bender or simply don't care.
Sure it was an extended Thanksgiving turkey time for many students, but it's a disappointing picture of empty seats and an announced crowd of 28,602 when other teams — Gators and Noles, for instance — were playing before sellout crowds overcome by football fever.
The temperature of UCF fans has been mostly luke warm throughout the years. It's been an odd symbiotic relationship between the football program at the fans. The up and down nature of the football program may give fans pause to truly commit. But the Knights have certainly made some noise on campus, playing in three previous C-USA championship games, and moving to a new stadium aptly nicknamed the "Bounce House."
"Last game of the season, championship game appearance on the line, it's disappointing not to see the stadium at full capacity," Michel Champagne, vice president and general manager for Bright House Networks, said from his view in a suite at the stadium.
Bright House is committed for the long haul, after signing a 15-year naming rights contract in 2006. We shall see about the fans. We will put Dr. Phil on pause for a week to see how this plays out. The Knights need to energize the fan base by winning the C-USA title next weekend. One more victory gets them to 10, a benchmark for excellence no matter what brand of football you play.
"Winning the division isn't enough for us," senior free safety Kemal Ishmael said.
The Knights seemed most capable of that on Saturday, rolling to a 49-24 victory despite allowing 599 yards of total offense.
"Coaches were telling us all week, 'Don't to take the foot off the pedal,' " said wide receiver J.J. Worton, who did his share by scoring twice.
The problem with the Knights is consistency and instability. They can be very good. They can be very bad. They reflect the resume of their coach, George O'Leary, who happens to have a non-rousing 59-54 record at UCF in nine seasons.
Then there is 2013. The Knights are leaving a low-profile conference to join one that is disintegrating. The Knights will be playing in the Big East Conference, a league that has been ransacked by other conferences and has lost much of its nationwide appeal after losing its automatic BCS bid. The team will likely be on probation, unless the school wins its appeal with the NCAA.
This needs to be the year for UCF and O'Leary. That is why the school filed the appeal, to bank on the success of 2012.
Must win baby.
It is all about survival and relevance.
UCF is on the clock.
Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org He is a regular contributor on the Joel Greenberg Show weekdays 4-6pm on 810 AM Yahoo! Sports Radio Orlando.
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