The War on I-4 is finally official now that both USF and UCF have decided to sponsor the rivalry and a have trophy created. The rivalry between the two schools will last year-round, will spread over every sport and will have a point system that determines who will possess the trophy. This weekend the Bulls will host the Golden Knights for the eighth meeting on the football field between the two programs. USF currently leads the series 5-2, with two a 2-1 record at home in Tampa.
Saturday will also be Senior Day, as USF will honor 18 senior players in their last game at Raymond James Stadium. These players will be fighting for the program’s first 10-2 season after sticking will head coach Willie Taggart through the first few years; going 2-10 in their freshman season. 12 of those seniors are on the two-deep roster and include players like wide receiver Rodney Adams, offensive tackle Kofi Amichia, safety Nate Godwin and linebacker Nigel Harris.
As the Bulls try to finish their season by having the best season in program history, they will have to face a UCF squad that has bounced back from their winless season last year by becoming a bowl eligible team this year. Led by first time head coach Scott Frost, the Golden Knights have made waves in the conference and are proving that they are much closer to becoming the powerhouse program everyone thought they were after their 12-1 2013 season, where they upset a heavily favorited Baylor team in the Fiesta Bowl.
Standing out for UCF is outer linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who leads the team in sacks (11), tackles-for-loss (17), forced fumbles (2) and is second in tackles for the team (80). Griffin leads a defense that surrenders 370 yards on average per game and allows just below 22 points per game, low enough for fourth in the conference while also ranking within the top 40 of the nation.
What is really impressive about this defense is the fact that it is tied for 14th in the nation in sacks. UCF has accumulated 34 sacks on the season while also hurrying the quarterback another 38 times. This is a defense that knows how to penetrate an offensive line and will work to get to USF quarterback, Quinton Flowers.
For USF’s part, their offensive line has given up only 13 sacks on the season, the least amount surrendered in the conference. Part of their success is from the line itself, but also Flowers’ awareness in the pocket and ability to stretch a play when pressure is applied.
This will be another match where USF’s opponent will have to try to stop the Bulls’ high-powered offense, rather than attempt to get into a shootout with them. The only games that USF lost were when the Bulls’ offense was forced off the field multiple times. USF will attempt to control the ball and the clock by running the ball as much as possible, giving the ball to running back Marlon Mack as he’s only 18 yards short of his third consecutive 1,000 yard season. That would give the Bulls two 1,000 yard rushers in one season.