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Can USF and UCF hang with the “Big Boys?”

Olivia Stacey



Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

The USF Bulls and UCF Knights are undefeated and two of the most impressive teams in the state entering Week 8.

Both continue to win, both continue to rack up double-digit wins and both continue to rise in the national polls.

South Florida moved up to the 16th ranked team in the AP Poll while the Knights are just four spots behind at No. 20. They’re two of three AAC teams ranked in the top 25, which is increasing the discussion surrounding the conference’s strength as a whole.

It begs the question, can the American Conference compete with Power 5 teams?

USF head coach Coach Charlie Strong thinks so.

“If you look at us, you look at what Central Florida is doing, look at what Navy is doing, you look at Memphis…you have four teams that have been ranked, that still are ranked,” Strong said during Monday’s teleconference call with the media.

“It’s a very competitive league. Week in and week out you have to be ready to go play, especially now that we’re in conference play,” Strong explained. “But it’s been great to just sit back and watch this league how it has developed and probably given people more than what they expected.”

USF, who extended their win streak to a nation-leading 11 games, has been a large part of that.

“That’s something that you want to do, you want to put them on alarm,” Strong said.

UCF has also turned heads this season.

There’s actually quite a few similarities between the two teams this season, including the high-scoring affairs we’ve seen from both.

Central Florida is the top-scoring offense in the country— outscoring all opponents by at least 27 points. South Florida is now tied with Oregon for the longest 30-point streak since 1936.

A combined five USF and UCF players earned the league’s weekly football honors for Week 7.

Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton was named the offensive player of the week after leading a UCF offense that gained 603 yards and had 33 first downs in a 63-21 win against ECU, helping the Knights to their first 5-0 start as a Division I program.

The special teams players of the week went to UCF cornerback Mike Hughes and USF kicker Emilio Nadelman, while Central Florida defensive end Jamiyus Pittman, and South Florida linebacker Auggie Sanchez made the honor roll.

Something tells me to expect an exciting I-4 match-up between these two teams come November.

However, Strong says its too soon to start looking ahead to that game, or any other for that matter. While Strong recognizes the the strength of UCF’s program, he’s only focused on their next opponent: Tulane.

“You see how college football is week in and week out,” Strong said. “What’s key is this, make sure that your whole total focus is on the next game and you can’t look down the line at all.”

While much remains to be seen, we do know this: USF will play UCF the day after Thanksgiving, and South Florida is already bowl-eligible.

If both teams keep winning, a lot could be on the line come November 24. And if South Florida beats an undefeated UCF, that would increase their chances of landing in a more prominent bowl game.

So while the Bulls hold strong with their one-game-at-a time mentality, fans should be pulling for both USF and UCF to continue to win.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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