UCF head coach George O'Leary had made it clear the Knights are willing to play anyone in the nation when it comes to the non-conference schedule. That's why he scheduled the likes of Ohio State and Missouri this season. Unfortunately, the Knights came up just short in both of those games.
"The team is disappointed because close doesn't count except in horse shoes," O'Leary said during his Monday press conference. "You have to win these games... But you can't give up the big plays and that's what we did and that's what made the difference in the game Saturday."
While non-conference games are important, the next eight games carry even more weight. Thursday night marks the beginning of conference play for UCF when the East Carolina Pirates come to town and every game counts if the Knights want to win a Conference USA Championship.
"Everything right now is for a conference championship and we're playing a team that's 2-0 in conference that's in our division," O'Leary said. "Every game is critical ... as far as our goal is concerned for Conference USA."
O'Leary says the Knights' goal is to win Conference USA.
"They understand that we expect to play 14 games this year. I told them that Sunday night," O'Leary said. "That's what our goal is ... to play 14 games and our goal is to win every game we play. Ultimately, we want the conference championship, so East Carolina is in the way."
The long-time UCF head coach has led the Knights to two Conference USA Championships. He understands the hard work and dedication it takes from everyone in the program to win a conference championship.
"You're in this for competition. You're in it to win and when you don't the old saying 'you die a little' ... it's true," O'Leary said. "You put so much effort into trying to get things done right. I think the kids aren't like that. They're resilient. The senior class had goals they set for themselves and close doesn't count. We have to win."