BULLS : GOAL LINE STAND : CENTRAL FLORIDA

By Leo Haggerty

It’s here, Bulls and Knights fans.  The Annual “War on I-4” battle and the game has never had more riding on the outcomein its brief history than the 2017 version.

Central Florida, ranked #13 nationally, comes into Friday’s contest with a perfect 10-0 record.  That puts the Black & Gold at the top of the American Athletic Conference East Division with a 7-0 log.

South Florida, ranked #22 in the Associated Press poll as well, travels to Orlando being 9-1 on the 2017 campaign.  That puts the Green & Gold a game behind UCF for the AAC East title.

Well, here’s what’s at stake.  The winner gets to play #17 Memphis in the AAC championship game a week from Saturday.  The team that captures the title will be in line for a berth in a “New Years 6” Bowl game as the College Football Playoff highest-ranked non-Power 5 team.

Suffice it to say, bragging rights in Florida are on the line.  Also, national recognition and a whole pile of money comes into the conversation as well.

For those aforementioned reasons, I have waited to game day morning to post my keys to the game.  I want to be right in my prognostication.

From all the information I’ve delved into, this  should be a great college football game. Below is what I believe USF needs to do to come away with the “War on I-4” trophy and the other rewards that come with it.

1st & GOAL – EMBRACE THE MOMENT

From the first practice in August, the only goal for USF was to win the AAC championship.  The Bulls are two games from accomplishing that goal.

Don’t let the moment become too large. Enjoy the ride and play loose.  You earned this.

2ND & GOAL – DEAL WITH ADVERSITY

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Hey, UCF isn’t good.  They’re damn good.  You don’t go 10-0 with smoke and mirrors.

UCF is going to score points. It’s what they do.

The key is to make those points field goals and not touchdowns.  If the Knights score on six possessions, and two are field goals, that adds up to 34 points.

I would think the USF coaching staff will take that scenario right now.  I sure would.

3RD & GOAL – CARPE DIEM

For you non-Latin speakers, this translates to “seize the day.”  I can’t think of a better explanation for what South Florida needs to do to win. The Bulls need to come out of the gate on fire.

On offense, there needs to be points on their opening possession.  Either 3 or 7. It doesn’t matter.  Find a way to light up the scoreboard early.  Send a message that you’re going to score, and score some more, this afternoon.

On defense, a stop on the first drive by UCF is critical.  Exert you will on the Knights offense by winning the individual battles.  That will lead to team success.

On special teams, no mistakes especially allowing a blocked kick. Eliminate any sudden change plays for the Black & Gold.

Even though it’s a road game, make it your day. Do whatever needs to be done to secure a victory.

4TH & GOAL – NO STUPID PENALTIES

I’m not trying to throw out the “conspiracy theory” line but it is to the advantage of  the AAC if UCF wins.  There’s only four teams in the country with unbeaten records and the Knights are in that quartet.  We’re talking a boatload of cash here for the conference with a Central Florida championship.

Don’t expect to get any border line calls from the zebras for that aforementioned reason.  Also, the Bulls are the road team and that never bodes well for any visiting squad with the guys in the striped shirts.

Play smart. You’re going to get penalties just no dumb ones.  Don’t let the referees be a factor.

OK, here’s my call for Friday. I said in August that USF would run the table. I’m sticking with that.

USF comes away with a hard-fought 45-42 victory.  HC Charlie Strong takes the shackles off QB Quinton Flowers and turns him loose. Don’t be surprised if this game goes into overtime.

The only thing left to do is to watch and see how this tilt plays out.  Meet you at the TV at 3:30.