Midterm Review: 2019 UCF Football

Josh Heupel's second UCF football team is 4-2 and halfway through its 2019 regular-season schedule.
Predicting strength of schedules in the heat of summer is dangerous at best--so it's been interesting to see how the Knights' opponents have fared to the midpoint of the campaign.
UCF's 2019 road schedule currently features three 5-1 teams (#21 Cincinnati, #25 Temple and Tulane), plus two 4-2 teams (Florida Atlantic and Pitt)—with those half-dozen foes posting a combined 25-11 record (.710) to date.
In this week's NCAA Toughest Schedule standings, UCF's past opponents stand tied for 22nd (20-10 for .500 vs. FBS foes), its future schedule rates tied for 52nd (20-16) and the overall slate rates 45th (40-26 for .606).
Strictly by coincidence the three AAC West Division teams that the Knights do not play in 2019 are a combined 15-2 (SMU 6-0, Memphis 5-1, Navy 4-1).
The Knights head into this week's home matchup with East Carolina boasting an 18-game homefield win streak—second only to Alabama at 29 (Clemson also sits at 18). UCF has helped the American Athletic Conference post 32 non-conference wins this fall—more than any other FBS conference. The Knights are 29-3 since the start of the 2017 season.
UCF has scored at least one rushing and one passing touchdown in 32 straight games, the longest streak in the country. The Knights have won 19 of their last 20 league games and have scored at least 30 points in 31 of their last 32 contests.
So, let's take a look at how the various Knights' units have progressed so far:
Rush Offense (ranks 29th nationally at 214.8 yards per game in current NCAA stats and 4th in AAC): The Knights continue to boast one of the more dangerous cadres of running backs, considering the gaudy yard-per-carry averages built by Greg McCrae (69 carries, 5.7 each), Adrian Killins (46, 7.2), Otis Anderson (41, 5.6) and Bentavious Thompson (31, 8.5). Key Note: The game production number is not far behind the UCF FBS high of 222.3, set in 2018. The Knights are led up front by two-time all-AAC center Jordan Johnson and fellow all-league returnees Jake Brown and Cole Schneider. 
Pass Offense (8th nationally and 1st in AAC at 329.5 per game): The big-play UCF attack has been on full display this fall, even in the absence of McKenzie Milton and with the arrival of true freshman Dillon Gabriel (99/166/5, 1,635 yards, 15 TDs). Gabriel has brought uncommon poise and productivity to the quarterback slot, given that he is a college football rookie. His current individual national rankings of third (passing yards per completion at 16.52), 16th (passing yards at 1,635), 10th (passing TDs at 15) and 12th (passing efficiency) buttress that thought. The Knights have had nine different players catch TD passes—though the duo with far and away the biggest numbers is comprised of juniors Gabriel Davis (38-669-8 TDs) and Tre Nixon (25-366-3). Davis stands eighth nationally in receiving yards, receiving TDs and receiving yards per game (and leads the league in all three categories). Key Note: Gabriel is in range of UCF single-season marks for receiving yardage (1,237 by Doug Gabriel in 2002) and receiving TDs (14 by Bret Cooper in 1992).   
Scoring Offense (5th nationally and 1st in AAC at 44.8 per game): Putting points on the scoreboard has been routine for the Knights since the start of the 2017 season. After a school-record 48.2 number in 2017, UCF followed that up at 43.2 last fall. The current midseason number comes even though the Knights against Cincinnati fell below the 30-point mark for the first time since the end of the 2016 season. Key Note: The current total offense figure (544.3) ranks third nationally. UCF has accounted for 165 first downs—only Ohio State (168) has more. 
Rush Defense (46th nationally and fourth in AAC at 131.7 per game): The Knights have worked hard to build quality depth up front and that has translated to pass rush by committee in 2019. UCF has started 24 different players on the defensive side. Linebacker Nate Evans' 17 stops versus Cincinnati vaulted him squarely into a commanding lead in tackles with 44 (he also is tied for the top spot in tackles for loss with Brendon Hayes with 5.5 each—with Hayes also leading in sacks with three and QB hurries with seven). Key Note: Twenty-five players appear in the tackle-for-loss column--with UCF ranking sixth in the country in that category at 8.8 per game. The top lineman in tackles (Tatum Bethune with 15) has yet to start a game. 
Pass Defense (31st nationally and 4th in AAC at 195.8 per game): Even with the injury loss of starting corner Brandon Moore in the opener versus Florida A&M, the Knights' secondary boasts three of the top six tacklers in all-star safety Richie Grant (30), corner Antwan Collier (25) and nickel back Aaron Robinson (22). Nevelle Clarke ranks eighth in the country in passes defended at 1.7 per game. Transfer Tay Gowan has stepped into Moore's slot and made a pair of interceptions. Key Note: Sixteen different players have at least one pass-breakup—and 17 have at least one quarterback hurry.
Scoring Defense (32nd nationally and 4th in AAC at 20.7 per game): The current total defense figure (327.5) ranks 33rd nationally (and fourth in the AAC). Key Note: If the scoring defense number holds up it would be UCF's best since 2014 (19.2).
Special Teams (22nd in punt returns, 33rd in kickoff returns are UCF's top 50 rankings): Otis Anderson is one of 30 players to return a punt for a TD in 2019 and that helps him rank seventh individually in punt returns at 14.9 yards each (tops in the AAC).