|UCF takes one more shot at South Florida|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 September 2008 12:14|
Every year, to be more specific.
``I think it is a natural game, but that is not my decision,'' Knights coach George O'Leary offered, looking ahead to the fourth and, at least for the time being, final meeting between the schools, whose campuses are barely 100 miles apart.
``One side gets it,'' O'Leary said. ``The other side, I don't know what the problem is.''
For reasons South Florida coach Jim Leavitt has not discussed publicly, Saturday night's matchup between his 17th-ranked Bulls and the defending Conference USA champions will be the last for a while.
How long is anybody's guess.
In 2005, the schools began a home-and-home series that USF has dominated, winning the first three games by a combined 122-43. The Bulls won 64-12 in Tampa a year ago, and quarterback Matt Grothe rubbed it in when he boasted USF didn't run up the score, but simply was that much better than the Knights.
That bulletin board material was re-posted this week, however the junior stood by his initial assessment of a game that helped propel the Bulls to a No. 2 ranking the following week.
The stronger team won, he reiterated, however the result will have no bearing on what happens this time.
``This is a different year, and different territory. They aren't playing (in Tampa), we are playing at their place,'' Grothe said. ``It is going to be a good game, and we are going to have to play well to beat them.''
The series has been popular with fans, with crowds ranging of 45,139, 46,708 and 65,948 - large by both schools' standards - for the first three meetings. Players also like the idea of the Bulls and Knights getting together every year.
Saturday's game will be the first between the schools in the 45,323-seat stadium UCF opened on campus last year. Two years ago in Orlando, UCF lost the most competitive of the three games 24-17.
``I would love to see it continue. It is a great game,'' USF All-American defensive end George Selvie said.
``The fans get into it. The offense always talks noise. We have T-shirts over in the bookstore that has a UCF fan serving food at a drive-thru. It is fun for me. Seeing this series continue would be great, but it is not up to me, it is up to the program.''
Proponents say an annual series between two of the nation's fastest-growing programs makes sense because of financial considerations, the proximity of the campuses, and intense interest among alumni and fans.
So-called ``Interstate 4 bragging rights'' can help recruiting, plus O'Leary likes the idea of playing non-conference opponents that afford UCF the potential to get the same type of national exposure USF received when the then-unranked Bulls upset Auburn early last season.
``Those are the games that get you the respect that you want from the country. ... To achieve the recognition, you have to win those games,'' O'Leary said. ``The conference will take care of itself.''
UCF is 0-17 against ranked opponents. However, the Knights did nearly pull off a shocker against Texas in the inaugural game at Bright House Networks Stadium, losing 35-32 to the heavily-favored Longhorns.
USF, ranked heading into a season for the first time, opened with a 56-7 rout of Tennessee-Martin.
UCF, which won 10 games and captured the C-USA title for the first time a year ago, beat South Carolina State 17-0.
``We hear them talking noise about us, but we've got to just go out there and play the game. It isn't about talking; it is about showing up out there on Saturday,'' Selvie said.
``They are saying that they never want to get beat like that again. That was embarrassing for them. ... Any team that gets beat like that, they are going to come after us, and they are going to be ready for the next game.''