UCF, USF set to meet in War On I-4

Courtesy UCF Athletics Communications

On Saturday afternoon, the War on I-4 rivalry series will resume with UCF (6-5, 4-3 American) meeting USF (9-2, 6-1 American) for a 12 p.m. kickoff at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

UCF currently holds a 15-9 lead in the newly established rivalry series, but the winner of Saturday’s game will receive six points. Additionally, the winner of the game will take home a War on I-4 trophy, especially designated for the football series.

Last week, UCF struggled to produce offensively, which allowed its defense to be overwhelmed by a tough Tulsa offense. The Knights fell 35-20 in their final home game of the year, but the team’s fans will surely make their presence felt this Saturday, as the game is being played just 102 miles from UCF’s campus.

USF presents a difficult challenge for head coach Scott Frost’s team, as it boasts one of the most consistent offenses in the country. The Bulls are No. 7 in scoring offense, putting up an average of 43.2 points per game. On the other side of the field will be the Knights’ stingy defense, which is no. 26 in scoring defense, allowing just 21.9 points per game.

USF is led by junior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who has totaled 2,399 passing yards, 1,273 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns this year. Junior running back Marlon Mack is no slouch himself, rushing for 982 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The Griffin twins, Shaquill and Shaquem, continue to lead the way for the Knights on defense. Shaquem’s 11 sacks are the most in the conference and fifth-most in the nation. Shaquill’s 16 pass breakups are the most in the conference and seventh-most in the country. He can make his way into the top 10 for pass breakups in a UCF career with just two more. Saturday will be the last collegiate regular season game for Shaquill, along with senior defensive backs T.J. Mutcherson, Drico Johnson and D.J. Killings.

The UCF defense will have to slow down USF as much as possible, especially considering the Knights’ offensive struggles as of late. Last week against a sub-par Tulsa defense, the UCF offense put up just 12 points and 321 yards.

USF’s defense isn’t a strength, as it has given up 489.4 yards and 31 points per game. However, freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton will have to be much better if the Knights are to have any chance of getting past the Bulls. Last week, Milton completed just 25 of his 51 attempts for 233 yards. The USF defense has given up an average of 218.1 yards per game on the ground, but against a bad Tulsa run defense last Saturday, UCF still struggled to find any consistency. The backfield trio of senior Dontravious Wilson and freshmen Adrian Killins and Jawon Hamilton combined for just 50 rushing yards on 20 carries. Milton added 37 yards on 12 rushes.

In the all-time football series, USF owns a 5-2 record against UCF. The Bulls won the meeting last year by a score of 44-3, handing the Knights their 12th loss of the season. Prior to 2015, UCF had a two-game winning streak against its in-state rival. Last time the two teams met in Tampa, the Knights gave the Bulls their first home shutout loss in school history, winning 16-0.

Following Saturday’s game, UCF will await its destination for this year’s bowl game. Bowl selection Sunday is on Dec. 4.