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UCF will probably be bad, but there’s a chance the Knights challenge Maryland football

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A look ahead at the third game on Maryland’s schedule.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the start of Maryland's football season on Sept. 3, we're doing an at-a-glance preview of every opponent on the schedule, running once each week.

Week 1: Howard (Sept. 3, Maryland Stadium, 12 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
Week 2: FIU (Sept. 9, Ocean Bank Field, Miami, 7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

Week 3: UCF (Sept. 17, Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

One of the great perks about working for SB Nation is having easy access to Bill Connelly, the college football encyclopedia who knows more about State U from the Sun Belt than most of us know about our own teams. So let’s refer to Connelly’s out-front assessment of UCF this year, coming off an 0-12 season.

"Expect UCF's terrible 2015 to become a distant memory under Scott Frost. Eventually." – the big UCF season preview ahead of 2016.

The Knights hired Frost away from Oregon, where he’d served as a relatively prolific offensive coordinator, to replace the retired/gently nudged out George O’Leary, who’d had great success in the Blake Bortles years but clearly had lost his luster. Frost was a good hire. It’s true, as it was widely reported then, that Maryland considered him for its own vacancy before deciding on DJ Durkin.

Let’s get a look at the team Maryland will face in Week 3:

How good is this team?

Pretty bad, probably. The Knights were really awful last year, and their 0-12 record wasn’t at all misleading based on their peripheral numbers.

But the Knights are going to be better this year simply because the law of averages exists. Frost is a smart guy, and it’s very much a matter of when he gets the Knights back above water. That probably won’t happen three games into his first year, but stranger things have happened.

Who should I watch?

The Knights have some guys. Quarterback Justin Holman has seen bits and pieces of action since 2013, but he became UCF’s primary quarterback last year. The results were bad: seven touchdowns against 14 interceptions and a lot of inefficiency, but he’s got a big arm and, in theory, some legitimate upside. He could challenge the Terps’ secondary.

The defensive line might be OK. Defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman was a sought-after high three-star recruit a few years ago and became the team’s leading tackler as a sophomore last season. There’s a chance the Knights can stop the run a bit.

Snap prediction, way ahead of time: Will Maryland win?

Yes, and it’ll feel pretty crushing if not. But there’s a chance UCF gets better more quickly than we think, and that would make things harder on Maryland.