We are ranking every opponent on Missouri’s schedule from No. 12 to No. 1 before the start of the regular season. Here are the previous installments: The weak links, Feisty non-conference foes and The Volunteer State.

Looking at Missouri’s 2014 slate, there are four SEC games which clearly represent the crux of the Tigers’ season. But beyond that, one team in particular seems to pose a threat. An unbeaten non-conference slate would mean Missouri could play .500 football within the SEC and get to eight wins. Having that as a likely basement for the season after a 4-0 start would be a nice gift to wrap up in September.

5. vs. UCF

Located across town from the Saturday Down South offices, the UCF Knights celebrated a Fiesta Bowl win following a huge double-digit upset against Baylor, then watched as NFL teams drafted Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson.

The average fan thinks of UCF in 2014 and immediately cringes, muttering something about how it’s too bad the Knights don’t have Bortles any more.

Bortles’ absence will be a big deal, mostly because the team is loaded at receiver and just named redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo as the starting quarterback. The Knights are stacked at receiver, starting with Rannell Hall, J.J. Worton and Breshad Perriman, who combined for 143 catches last season. (Missouri has to be jealous.)

Johnson was an underrated running back, in part because of Bortles and in part because he platooned. But he excelled against the team’s best competition, including 117 rushing yards against Penn State, 188 yards of total offense against Louisville, 127 rushing yards against Houston and 124 rushing yards against Baylor. Still, the team has Will Stanback, another player on the NFL radar, out of the backfield.

UCF also returns nine starters from the best defense in the American Athletic Conference — which is admittedly somewhat of an oxymoron. But this is pretty unusual: The Knights return their entire two-deep in the secondary. The group is stocked with seniors. They’re ball hawks. They are good in run support. There’s depth galore, and experienced depth at that. But sophomore Jacoby Glenn, one of the starting cornerbacks, may be the best of the bunch.

It will create an interesting matchup for a group of Missouri receivers looking to deflect an intense spotlight brought about by the mass exodus of 2013 production at the position. Combined with UCF’s playmakers at receiver, the Knights make for an interesting early test in that they should poke and prod at Missouri’s perceived weak points.

Linebacker Terrance Plummer could be the team’s best player as well as a contender for American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Plummer made 110 tackles, 8.5 for loss, last season.

UCF’s special teams also look tough on paper, starting with two steady kickers.

Overall, the Knights are used to facing power conference foes and enjoying success. They face Penn State in Ireland to open the season, and beating the Nittany Lions for a second consecutive season would ensure the Knights roll into Missouri with confidence.

A loss to UCF wouldn’t affect the SEC standings, obviously. But it’s the kind of game that will affect the perception of the Tigers nationally.

UCF has a great shot at winning the AAC again this season. Missouri is better on paper, though not by a wide margin. Handle business at home against the Knights and the Tigers should enter SEC play at 4-0 with everything still on the table. It’s also the kind of non-conference win that would generate respect.