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If UCF was ever a power-conference candidate, it's probably not after this season

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We try to keep things positive around these parts, but it's time to address the elephant in the room: What has gone wrong in Orlando?

George O'Leary's time as interim athletic director may not be the only thing coming to an end in Orlando.
George O'Leary's time as interim athletic director may not be the only thing coming to an end in Orlando.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Something has gone seriously wrong in Orlando, and it may have set an entire athletic department back 20 years.

On the heels of an 0-6 start to the season, UCF head football coach George O'Leary announced Monday that he was stepping down as Central Florida's interim athletics director; a position he accepted in June after leading the Knights to 31 wins and a Fiesta Bowl victory in the last three seasons.

"I don't have an interest in being an AD," O'Leary said via a press release. "I just don't have an interest in being that kind of person. I'm a football coach."

Following Monday's decision, one has to wonder for just how long O'Leary will hold on to that job, too.

It wasn't even six months ago that there was serious discussion about the UCF Knights being a top candidate for Big 12 expansion.

Then the 2015 football season began.

The Underdogs Poll is a weekly venture in which SB Nation's blogs on non-power schools vote to rank the top 15 non-power teams at the moment.

Num RANK TEAM POINTS PREVIOUS
1 1 Toledo (12) 220 1
2 2 Boise State (6) 208 2
3 3 Temple (3) 182 4
4 4 Houston (1) 158 6
5 5 Memphis (1) 153 3
6 6 Western Kentucky (1) 108 7
7 7 Navy (1) 103 5
8 8 BYU 76 8
9 9 Ohio 34 11
10 10 Marshall 30 14
11 11 Georgia Southern 27 9
12 12 BGSU 23 12
13 13 Cincinnati 21 10
14 14 Louisiana Tech 17 13
15 15 Appalachian State 6 17
Dropped out: Northern Illinois | Others receiving votes: Utah State (5), Air Force (2), Northern Illinois (1), Western Michigan (1)

The Knights, who were picked to finish second in the American Athletic East Division heading into the season, have been miserable. Their 0-6 record includes losses to FIU and Furman, and they just got blown away at home by UConn. Things only get tougher from here.

Central Florida still has to face two of the four remaining undefeated teams in the Group of Five -- at Temple this weekend, and then home vs. Houston the following week. Games at Cincinnati and Tulsa, and home vs, ECU and USF round out the season in successive order.

It's safe to say the Knights won't be projected to win a single one of those games. They may not even be better than a double-digit underdog in any of them.

And if UCF goes 0-12 on the season, that should probably be enough to slam the door on any potential power conference invite.

Even with O'Leary surely gone at the end of the season, it may already be too late to save the Knights.

HELMET STICKERS:

Greg Ward, Jr.: The Houston quarterback continues to light it up for the undefeated Cougars. His four rushing touchdowns vs. SMU have him tied for second nationally in the category on the season (11), and first among quarterbacks. He was also near-perfect through the air. I don't think first-year head coach Tom Herman could have found a better quarterback to start his tenure with. If Houston keeps winning, Ward deserves serious Heisman attention.

Tanner Mangum: It's not the first time the freshman BYU quarterback earned a helmet sticker for his late-game heroics, but he managed to do so this week despite battling injury. Mangum was knocked out of the Cougars' game vs. ECU with a hamstring injury, but still managed to make it back in time to lead BYU on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended in the go-ahead touchdown and sealed another improbable win for the Cougs.

Terry Swanson: The third-string Toledo Rockets running back guided UT to yet another win on Saturday. His 161 yards and one touchdown on just 14 carries were more than enough to make up for a still-not-100-percent Kareem Hunt. Swanson notched his second 100+-yard performance in as many weeks, but his time getting the bulk of the load is likely over. It may be until next season before he gets another shot to earn a Helmet Sticker.

Thomas Sperbeck: Five receptions, 178 yards, two touchdowns. Not a bad Saturday for the Boise State wide receiver. Sperbeck has really ramped up his play since Week 3 and is a main reason why the Broncos are as good as ever following a frustrating loss to BYU early in the season.

Drew Hare: The second-year NIU starting quarterback is not the athlete that Jordan Lynch was, but what he lacks in running ability he makes up for in raw passing ability. Hare was one of the most efficient QBs in all of college football last year. This past weekend, he turned out yet another gem with a 29-of-32 passing, 363-yard and two touchdown performance in a win over CMU. That's a 90.2 percent completion percentage against a defense that did pretty well against Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Michigan State.

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THREE TO WATCH:

Cincinnati at BYU, Fri., Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

Boise State at Utah State, Fri., Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network

Ole Miss at Memphis, Sat., Oct. 17 at noon ET on ABC/ESPN2