1. UCF Knights
Step 1: Use the first two games of the season to get Brandon Wimbush up to speed. With Darriel Mack Jr. hurting, the offense has to keep on rolling and thriving with the former Notre Dame starter under center. The Knights play Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic to kick things off, and then it’s on.
Step 2: They’re the games UCF has been missing over the last two regular seasons – back-to-back Power 5 games to make a splash. Stanford has to make the trip to Orlando, and then the Knights are off to Pitt before diving into the American Athletic Conference schedule. It’s not a totally brutal back-to-back set of games, but it’ll have to do. This year, though …
Step 3: The defense will have to do its part a bit more. Granted, opponents had to open up the O to try to keep up the pace, but the UCF D did its part, too, by not being all that great, allowing 500 yards per game. The Knight offense will still be fantastic, but it might take a wee step back. To beat the big boys, the team has to get from all phases.
Step 4: No American Athletic Conference misfires. Winners of 16 straight conference games and two AAC championships, the Knights might be rolling in league action, but they got pushed really, really hard by Temple and Memphis last season. One loss, and that’s it, but this time around they have to go to Cincinnati, Temple and Tulane, and host Houston and USF. Even with all of that …
Step 5: It’s going to take everything breaking right. Two straight unbeaten regular seasons got UCF nothing more than a hearty handshake. The College Football Playoff committee doesn’t care, and it’s still a fight overall to get the world to buy in that a team from outside the Power Five should get in, mainly because it’s not playing a Power Five schedule. It’s going to take three Power Five champs to have two losses or more, and no real viable one-loss options to spoil the fun.
Oh yeah … and UCF has to go unbeaten with a conference championship for a third year in a row.