2022 UCF Football Season Prediction, Preview, Awards, Bowl Game 2022
UCF football is now firmly in the Gus Malzahn era and now that he’s starting to make his mark on the Knights, they should have a successful 2022 season.
Gus Malzahn’s first year at the helm of the UCF football program might have been a little disappointing by the standards of Knights fans, but the former Auburn head coach has dealt with a lot of adversity and still been able to put together a great season.
Now they enter the 2022 season with a new quarterback and renewed hope that Malzahn is ready to put the Knights back at the top of the AAC. But can they reach those heights?
Arrives at #47 FanSided’s Preseason Top 50 Rankingthe UCF Knights.
2021 UCF football season in review
In 2020, the Knights finished the year with a 6-4 record and a Boca Raton Bowl loss to the BYU Cougars. Head coach Josh Heupel left the program after the season to become the new sideline boss for the Tennessee Volunteers. The Knights turned to the SEC and decided to hire former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn to replace him.
The Knights got off to a frantic start to their season, posting a 36-31 win over Boise State in their opening game. In the first six games, UCF prevailed with a 3-3 record. But they managed to bounce back in the second half, winning five of their last six games to end the regular season with an 8-4 record.
UCF was named a participant in the Gasparilla Bowl, where they faced a Florida Gators team that was in free fall and fired Dan Mullen mid-season. The Knights were able to win the game 29-17. Wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe was named MVP after recording seven receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.
UCF Knights offense preview for the 2022 season
- Returners (6/7): RB Isaiah Bowser, RB Johnny Richardson, WR Ryan O’Keefe, WR Amari Johnson, OL Matthew Lee, OL Lokahi Pauole, OL Samuel Jackson
- Newcomer: QB John Rhys Plumlee (Ole Miss), WR Kobe Hudson (Auburn), LT Tylan Grable (Jacksonville State), OL Ryan Swoboda (Virginia), TE Kemore Gamble (Florida)
- striker: John Rhys Plumlee
On the Knights offense, there will be a battle for starting quarterback position. The team has Mikey Keene returning after taking on the injured Dillon Gabriel in the 2021 campaign. But he will have some competition in the form of John Rhys Plumlee, who switched from Ole Miss. Still, Plumlee has plenty of rust with just eight pass attempts over the past two seasons. However, his double threat ability might be just what Malzahn wants on offense.
The running back room is intact, with Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson returning for this season, both of whom rushed for over 700 yards last season.
As for passing attack, wide receivers Ryan O’Keefe and Amari Johnson are all returning. But Kobe Johnson, a transfer from Auburn, joins the Knight’s wide receiver depth chart. The team has a new tight end in Kemore Gamble, who transferred from the Florida Gators program.
The offensive line has two new offensive linemen in former Jacksonville State tackle Tylan Grable and Virginia guard Ryan Swoboda.
UCF Knights defense preview for the 2022 season
- Returners (8): CB Dazute Brown, NB Justin Hodges, DT Ricky Barber, DT Keenan Hester, DE Josh Celiscar, LB Tre’Mon Morris-Brash, S Quadric Bullard, S Divaad Wilson
- Newcomers: LB Branden Jennings (Kansas State), LB Jason Johnson (Eastern Illinois), DE KD McDaniel (Kentucky), DL Lee Hunter (Auburn)
- striker: Vonste Brown
The defense remains relatively intact, with some disposals. Tatum Bethune, their lead tackler from last season, will not return as he transferred to Florida State. Sacks leader Markaviest Bryant made the jump to the NFL and signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent.
Their linebacker corps has seen the most changes, with the team having six transfers on the roster, including Kansas State’s Branden Jennings and eastern Illinois’ Jason Johnson.
UCF’s premier pass defenders will return, including Vomte Brown and Justin Hodges. As recently as last year, the Knights’ pass defenses allowed just 210.1 air yards per game, 35th nationwide.
Clock with UCF football players for the 2022 season
Isaiah Bowser, Heisman
Usually the easiest choice for the Heisman clock is to field the starting quarterback. There’s a problem – it’s unknown who will win the starting job between Keene and Plumlee. Instead, let’s look at another position that’s likely to win a Heisman, and that’s running back.
The top running back on the roster is Isaiah Bowser. He signed from Northwestern last season and excelled in his eight games for the Knights. He missed time due to injuries.
In eight games, Bowser rushed for 703 yards and 9 touchdowns on 159 carries. Bowser returned in time to the Gasparilla Bowl, where he rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns with 35 carries. That was his first game since November 6 of that year.
If Bowser stays healthy, he could have a chance to make waves as the team’s Heisman candidate.
Ryan O’Keefe, Biletnikoff Prize
O’Keefe should be the favorite in the wide receiver room to earn Biletnikoff honors as the nation’s top receiver. Last season he caught 84 passes for 812 yards and seven touchdowns. He ended the season on a high by winning the Gasparilla Bowl MVP award.
This could be the most likely honor for a UCF player this season.
Isaiah Bowser, Doak Walker Prize
We may be cheating here, but Bowser is a legitimate contender for the Doak Walker Award for best running back in the nation. In fact, he was placed on the Doak Walker Award watchlist alongside Johnny Richardson Jr.
Bowser will likely be the starter for most of the season and could see him contend for that honor. Don’t count on Richardson winning the award, though.
Biggest UCF football game on 2022 schedule
Looking at the knight’s schedule, one opponent stands out among the rest. It’s the Cincinnati Bearcats, of course. Just last year, Cincinnati shocked the world by going unbeaten in the regular season and recording a perfect 8-0 in the American Athletic Conference. Their season saw them finish fourth in the college football playoffs, which earned them a shot against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Cotton Bowl. They eventually lost 27-6.
These two teams met last year and it wasn’t even close as the Knights lost 56-21.
The Knights have a chance to exact revenge on their conference rivals and earn their first win against them since 2018.
UCF football best case scenario
Perhaps the best scenario for the upcoming season is that the Knights remain healthy for most of the season. If so, they could reach second place in the AAC. Even with the departures in Cincinnati, they’re still tough to beat in the conference.
So the best-case scenario is that they finish second and make it to a bowl game.
UCF football worst case scenario
Worst case scenario ends up below .500 and can’t even qualify for a bowl game. This can happen when the quarterback’s play isn’t optimal, or when injuries are really piling up on both sides of the ball.
If things go wrong, many will look to Malzahn. That’s exactly what happened to the Auburn Tigers program in his final years before the school finally decided to leave him. It’s unlikely UCF would leave him in just his second season, especially when they ended last year with a winning record.
Prediction for the 2022 UCF football season
The Knights appear to be a relatively strong team heading into the 2022 season, but quarterback uncertainty could prevent the team from making a big leap from last year. Considering Cincinnati will be Cincinnati and Houston is on the up, the Knights will miss the AAC Championship Game. But they will have a good record to make it to a bowl game comfortably.
UCF Football 2022 Bowl Match Prediction
Which bowl game are they going to as UCF will have a track record but won’t make it to the AAC championship game? Since they don’t have a fixed affiliation, it’s hard to predict which one they’ll go to.
The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl seems like a safe bet. College Football News forecast The Knights will also get to this game, so let’s stick with it.
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