UCF's 2013 football schedule, its first in the Big Whatchamacallit Conference, to me is like buying me a shiny new sports car, telling me all about it, and then when you give it to me at the end of the week, you tell me I have to sit in the back seat and have you drive me around.
Does that suck? So does the football schedule.
I have big issues that have nothing to do with four games being played on Thursdays or Fridays (well, one Friday game troubles me) because of the national exposure that an ESPN network (that isn't ESPN3 that I have to work to hook up my computer to see) brings that this league can't hope for on a Saturday afternoon.
Here's why the schedule is a mess:
3 bye weeks. I know the conference wants to be playing games the first weekend of December, when the rest of the respectable college football world is playing conference championships. But then start a week later, after Labor Day. (Especially since this season begins at home, a September start helps build anticipation that you had with the Knights opening last season on the road.) This season will go like this: 3 games, a bye, 2 games, a bye, 2 games, a bye, 5 games. After 7 games, how much rhythm and momentum will UCF have rolled up going into that pivotal 5-game conference game stretch (pivotal, of course, if there's no sanctions and a bowl game to play for).
The 3rd home game isn't until Oct. 26. The first three home games are Aug. 29, Sept. 28 and Oct. 26. The bye weeks have a hand in that. Maybe it's good that there's a bye before South Carolina. (And that's Parents and Family Weekend? Is a beat-down at the hands of an SEC team considered good, clean family entertainment?) But playing at home once a month for the first half of the home schedule is no way to build the "casual fan" base. Especially if the end of the year isn't going well and now you're hitting fans with 3 home games in 4 weeks.
Opening conference play the week after the South Carolina game. The meeting with the Spurriercocks is easily the biggest home draw of 2013. Memphis looms the next week. Coach O'Leary wants to win that game, but not at the expense of showing a conference opponent the whole playbook. So expect the Knights to play it close to the vest -- and lose. The first bye would be so much better after playing South Carolina.
Weather does UCF no favors. The Knights go to Philadelphia to play Temple -- on Nov. 16. Philly is chilly, grey and blustery by mid-November. Take my word for this. Then Rutgers comes to Orlando five days later on Nov. 21, when the weather will probably be nice and mild. These games in September or October would have been "advantage Knights". Instead, UCF will be cold in Philly and Rutgers will be comfortable in Orlando.
Black Friday rivalry game? Not a good idea for everyone. This affects current students -- the ones who fill that student section -- more than us working stiffs in town. Say you're a student who is from Sarasota or Delray Beach, but you want to have Thanksgiving dinner with the family. If you want to go spew hate at USF from the stands (rather than from your couch, which will be much less effective), you have to cut the long weekend short and leave home no later than early Friday morning. All that driving? What kind of long holiday weekend is that?
Anyway, here's the schedule, and my early worthless prediction on how it will go. UCF is still at the level where they blow a game they should take (see Missouri, 2012), and I think it'll be either UConn or Rutgers ... I'll go with Rutgers on the short week. If the Knights don't snare a victory pulled from the jaws of defeat, then anything less than an 8-4 year, not a bad baseline for a first year in a new league, will be disappointing.
Thursday, Aug. 29 - Akron W, 1-0
Saturday, Sept. 7 - at FIU W, 2-0
Saturday, Sept. 14 - at Penn State L, 2-1
Saturday, Sept. 21 - BYE
Saturday, Sept. 28 - South Carolina - Parents and Family Weekend L, 2-2
Saturday, Oct. 5 - at Memphis* W, 3-2, 1-0
Saturday, Oct. 12 - BYE
Friday, Oct. 18 - at Louisville* (ESPN/ESPN2) L, 3-3, 1-1
Saturday, Oct. 26 - Connecticut* W, 4-3, 2-1
Saturday, Nov. 2 - BYE
Saturday, Nov. 9 - Houston* - Homecoming W, 5-3, 3-1
Saturday, Nov. 16 - at Temple* W, 6-3, 4-1
Thursday, Nov. 21 - Rutgers* (ESPN) L, 6-4, 4-2
Friday, Nov. 29 - USF* (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2) W, 7-4, 5-2
Saturday, Dec. 7 - at SMU* W, 8-4, 6-2