PREDICTION: War on I-4 has chance to be 'instant classic'

By Chris Torello, Spectrum Sports 360 Host/USF Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, November 24, 2017, 6:52 AM EST

 

QUICK FACTS: USF (9-1, 6-1 AAC) at #15 UCF (10-0, 7-0 AAC) 

  • USF leads the all-time series, 6-2 
  • Bulls beat the Knights last season at Raymond James Stadium, 48-31
  • Last UCF Win was in 2014: 16-0

This isn’t a rivalry cloaked in years of battle on the gridiron. But it is one that both UCF and USF hope takes its proper place among the Thanksgiving weekend games that are dubbed “must watch” by college football fans.

Two years ago the game was played on Thanksgiving night. Last year it was played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year’s game will take place on Friday. It is a 3:30 slot on national television (ABC). If all goes well, this might be the most intriguing timeslot to place the War on I-4. And this year’s matchup is, without a shred of doubt, the most compelling in the rivalry’s ninth installment.

Here’s why:

When the season began USF was seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the East Division of the American Athletic Conference, followed by a win in the conference title game. Even with the departures of Willie Taggart (Oregon) and running back Marlon Mack (NFL – Colts) having Charlie Strong in from Texas and the return of Quinton Flowers at QB would be enough for the Bulls to clinch their first ever conference title.

But then UC-Fast happened. Quickly. In just his second season at UCF, head coach Scott Frost has his team poised for an undefeated season. So many thought this would be a positive year for the Knights, moving from six wins to possibly eight or nine victories. UCF is currently 10-0. And with a win over USF at home on Friday would go to 11-0, win the division, and host the AAC title game a week from Saturday, most likely against Memphis. The Knights were 0-12 prior to Frost taking over. Let that sink in for a moment.

McKenzie Milton looks like the best QB in all the AAC (apologies to Flowers, who is the best running QB). Milton has the 2nd-best passer efficiency rating in the nation (186.1) behind only Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma (199.3). This will be the toughest game for Milton. He is going up against the 10th-best defense in all the country (1st in AAC) in USF.

This is a cool stat: USF (17) and UCF (16) are two of the top teams in the country in interceptions.  Expect the winning team to force at least two interceptions in this one.

PREDICTION TIME:

We pooled together all of our sports reporters at Spectrum Sports 360 and this is what we have:

Zach Aldridge – UCF, 41-20

Rishi Barran – UCF, 38-27

Despina Barton – UCF, 49-21

Mike Cairns – UCF, 44-31

Austin Lyon – UCF, 38-21

Lindsay Liquori – UCF, 35-23

Katherine Smith - Declines a game pick - instead provides us with a Frost Destination Prediction: Scott Frost ends up at Nebraska.

Andy Wontor - UCF, 32-21.

 

Okay…MY TURN: 

I have been saying all week that this was an easy choice (UCF) and as you can see from my colleagues, the Knights are indeed the popular choice. This game might just come down to the quarterback vs. the opposing defense. During Wednesday night’s edition of “Spectrum Sports 360” we asked fans who they would rather have under center for the War on I-4. You voted on Twitter:

64% - Quinton Flowers

36% - McKenzie Milton

 

I think this is a fair vote because Flowers is the senior quarterback. Milton has shown flashes of fellow Hawaiian, and Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, who Scott Frost coached at Oregon. Even though last year Milton threw two interceptions against the Bulls (and the Knights offense looked like a creation of Sterlin Gilbert).

I really think the Bulls will have a few stops in them. I also think that the number one defense in the AAC will be able to contain the likes of Adrian Killins and Otis Anderson. However, it won’t be enough. I think UCF is too good on offense. This is the best offense in the country.

UCF is a Top-10 team. It won’t be a blowout. It’s going to be a fun game all the way through the 4th quarter.

Just as Flowers gets to the sideline to celebrate a go-ahead touchdown, he turns around and sees the Knights win it with a last-minute TD.

Instant classic coming.  

TORELLO'S PREDICTION: UCF 38, USF 37.