Paul Tenorio, the UCF beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel, and I swapped three questions this week to try give each fan base an inside look at this week’s opponent. Here are the three questions I sent Tenorio and his responses:
1. Is it fair to say this is one of the biggest games/opportunities in UCF history?
Absolutely, it's got a chance to be a marquee moment in a transformative season.
An upset over South Carolina would put UCF into uncharted territory. Top 25 is one thing, and UCF has been there before, but with a schedule with relatively few big names, people would start to include the Knights in some bigger conversations -- i.e. BCS game and undefeated season.
On a longer-term scale, this game -- win or lose -- is critical for a program that came into this season emphasizing that they needed to sell its brand to a nationwide audience. Playing at noon on ABC across the country is about as good of a three-hour commercial as you are going to get. People dont know much about UCF – that it's the second largest school in the country, that it's sitting in a top-20 market, that's it's won eight games or more in four of the last six seasons. People dont get how far UCF has come in such a short amount of time. This platform can start to help with that. It’s big for recruiting, it’s big for further realignment. A win only multiplies the impact.
2. How good is Blake Bortles and what is his No. 1 strength?
He's legit. People are starting to realize. Let's start with size: He's 6-5, 230 and built like a tight end. In fact, that's what a lot of people wanted him to play coming out of high school. He has the arm strength to make any throw, and he doesn't make many mistakes. (He's recently snapped a streak of 232 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, and he had a streak of 147 attempts before that.)
Here's the more important part: He's come a long way in the mental side of the game. He's got the football smarts, he's become incredibly efficient at diagnosing coverages and at picking apart defenses. USC has to disguise looks and even then he could frustrate them. Just ask Penn State. This blog gives a good idea of what he can do facing different types of coverages.
3. Tell South Carolina folks a name they don't know now but will on Sunday and why?
That's a tough one. I'll go with wide receiver Breshad Perriman. Just a sophomore, he's the son of former NFL receiver Brett Perriman. At 6-2, 210 he's got solid size, and he's one of the fastest players on the team. The top pass catcher in the top-to-bottom deepest unit on UCF's roster, Perriman could break out for a big game or play second fiddle to any of the other options -- Jeff Godfrey, Ranell Hall, Josh Reese, J.J. Worton. Against a very good defense, Perriman has the most big-play potential and my guess is the Knights will look to get him involved early if they can.