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American Conference announces UCF-USF will be in prime time

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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The American Athletic Conference and ESPN have announced game times for the Friday after Thanksgiving, including UCF’s traditional battle with USF set for Orlando.

And unlike the previous two years, the Knights and Bulls will meet in primetime:

In each of the last two years UCF and USF battled in the 3:30 Eastern time slot on the Friday after Thanksgiving on ABC. The game two years ago was as dramatic as the young conference could have hoped. This as it was for a spot in the AAC Championship Game and to keep UCF’s 10-0 unbeaten season alive. The Bulls came into the game 9-1, themselves.

It ended up being one of the highest-rated non-prime time ESPN college football games of the entire season with a massive 3.3 rating and 4.6 million audience for Black Friday. The Knights dramatic kickoff return for a touchdown by Mike Hughes (above) in the final minutes vaulted them into the title game. And, they eventually completed a perfect season, including their Peach Bowl win over Auburn.

A year ago, UCF continued their unbeaten win streak and rolled into Tampa on the Friday after Thanksgiving for an afternoon National TV game at Raymond James Stadium. UCF was in complete command, when suddenly the best player in the American Conference, quarterback McKenzie Milton, had his leg fractured horribly in a second quarter scramble.

The Knights went on to win that game with the Bulls and repeat, as AAC Champions with another victory over Memphis the following week. However, they lost the Fiesta Bowl on January 1st to LSU.

The Bulls have stumbled to a 4 – 6 record and UCF has also suffered three losses to this point, including a stunning collapse 10 days ago at Tulsa. That’s where they were beaten on a last-second field goal despite being 17-point favorites over the Golden Hurricane.

The conference also announced that the two division leading teams Memphis and Cincinnati, who has already beaten UCF and USF, will square off in Memphis at 3:30 in that slot on ABC that the Bulls and Knights occupied the last two years.

Interestingly, both the Bearcats and Tigers may enter that game with only one loss each and may end up rematching each other the following week in the Conference Championship game.

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UCF Knights

UCF WR Gabe Davis will turn pro

Jamil King

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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Next year’s UCF offense took a big hit Wednesday , but in the long run, the player leaving may help the program with more publicity at the next level.

Star wide receiver Gabriel Davis has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the upcoming NFL draft.

Davis is a true “Florida Boy” growing up in Sanford, and playingl ball at Seminole High school. He has been dominant in his time at UCF, has become one of the best wideouts in the state, arguably the best in his conference and one of the more underrated players in the country.

His numbers have improved each season. As a freshman, he had 27 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had 53 catches for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Then, this season Davis had 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Last season Davis finished on the American All-conference second team. This year, however, he finds himself on the first team and will hope the accolades don’t stop there.

Davis has all of the prototypical traits to be an “X” receiver in the NFL. He has the size at 6’3, but could work on his frame, getting up his listed weight at 212 pounds. In the passing league that is the NFL, teams are always looking for someone with big play ability. Davis is just that, averaging 16 yards a catch for his career.

He has the ability to take the top of a defense with his size and speed, which will intrigue scouts. One area of his game he will likely work on in the offseason will be running after the catch.

We all know his ability to kill you downfield, but scouts will also want to see what he can do catching a short pass. With an absolutely stacked class at the position, it will be interesting to see where Davis goes when the draft rolls around.

Already underrated being from an AAC school expect that to continue during draft time, but also expect him to rise to the occasion.

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UCF Knights

UCF blows out USF- is it the end for Charlie Strong?

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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It wasn’t an unexpected result, as UCF won for the third straight time in the rivalry matchup with USF, 34 – 7 Friday night in Orlando. The bigger question is: was it the end for third-year Bulls coach Charlie Strong?

First to the game. The Knights got what they needed in the first half, as freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel led them on three scoring drives to build a 21 – 0 lead from which USF never recovered. Gabriel threw two touchdown passes to his favorite target this season, receiver Gabe Davis (above), and the lead grew to 24 – 0 at the half.

The same pattern continued with USF’s offense as has been the case for much of this season. The Bulls mounted a little to nothing offensively throughout the game until finally breaking through, when running back Johnny Ford scored on a fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter. That trimmed the lead to 24 – 7.

However, Backup QB Darriel Mack led the next Knights answer going 82 yards in 8 plays with Mack carrying two yards for UCF’s final TD of the evening and all but, putting the game away.

The win was UCF’s ninth on the season and they await to find out what bowl game the American Conference will slot them in. This is the first time in three years that the Knights have not played in the championship game of the American Conference. They won the previous two defeating the Memphis Tigers both times and ended up playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game each time, as well.

That included their loss in the Fiesta Bowl to LSU a year ago, which stopped their 25 game win streak.

Back to the Bulls, the loss was their fourth straight to end the year and Strong’s team limped to the finish line at 4 – 8. When you combine this season with losing the remaining six games a year ago, that’s 14 losses in the last 18 games played for Strong’s teams. Friday night was also the fifth loss by 27 points or more for USF this season.

So now, we all wait to see if USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly, who was hired last year, will get rid of the former Texas and Louisville coach or give him one final shot to turn it around in 2020?

Strong is reportedly owed at least $5 million for the remaining two years on his five-year deal that he agreed to in December of 2016.

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