2010 record: 11-3, 7-1 (1st C-USA East; won conference title game)
2010 bowl: 10-6 win over Georgia in the Liberty Bowl
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 21st/20th
Coach: George O’Leary, seventh year; 45-44 overall, 33-23 conference
Offensive coordinator: Charlie Taaffe, third year
2010 offensive rankings: 31st, scoring offense (32.1 ppg); 65th, total offense (374 ypg); 26th, rushing offense (187.6 ypg); 87th, passing offense (186.4 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: John Skladany, first year
2010 defensive rankings: 8th, scoring defense (17.1 ppg); 15th, total defense (315.4 ypg); 8th, rushing defense (108.4 ypg); 41st, passing defense (207 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 6
Returning defensive starters: 4
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Stadium: Bright House Networks Stadium (Grass; 45,323)
Last league title: 2010
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: The Knights’ 2011 season could go a couple of different ways depending on the answers to a few questions.
A stifling defense lost several starters from a year ago; will the recruiting strides George O’Leary & Company have made over the past couple of years be enough to fill those holes, especially at linebacker? Quarterback Jeff Godfrey was phenomenal for a freshman in 2011, but can he take his game to the next level and avoid a sophomore malaise that affects some players at his position after opponents get the book on him? Arguably three of the Knights’ toughest conference games — SMU, Southern Miss and East Carolina — are all on the road. Given that they’ll be a younger team than they were in 2010 — they lost 19 seniors — can their talent belie their youth?
Our answers: probably, yes and yes, thus leading to O’Leary pulling in another conference title, another double-digit season in wins and another nationally-ranked season.
Make-or-break game: Sept. 23 at BYU
It’s a stretch to call this game make or break — that’s normally reserved for a conference game. However, this road contest may be a significant measuring stick for O’Leary as the trip to Provo could provide a litmus test for what may be down the road for the aforementioned three conference road games. Handling a quality opponent such as the Cougars in the fourth week of the season would bode well and perhaps give a little battle-tested confidence to the young Knights.
Heisman hopeful: Godfrey
As a true freshman, Godfrey completed nearly 67 percent of his 238 passes for almost 2,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. The eight interceptions might cause a little consternation, but, again, it was his first year as a starter at the collegiate level. Godfrey improved measurably from his first start of the year — the third game — through the “upset” bowl win over Georgia. It might be a year early for any type of Heisman hype, but Godfrey will likely plant the seeds for a 2012 run by building on the outstanding first year this season.
Postseason projection: Liberty Bowl