WAR ON I-4: UCF Knights, USF Bulls Square Off with Central Florida Bragging Rights on the Line
By Space Coast Daily // November 26, 2020
3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN
ORLANDO, FLORIDA (UCF Knights) – UCF closes out its 2020 regular season Friday afternoon in its annual renewal of the War on I-4 in Tampa against South Florida.
The stakes have risen in this game in recent years, with the War on I-4 trophy established to represent the all-sports scoring competition between the two schools, each representing the other’s closest opponent in the American Athletic Conference. Few introductions are required in this one, with the majority of both rosters representing the state of Florida.
For the Knights, it’s a chance to end the regular season on a winning note. UCF has won three in a row against the Bulls and five of the last seven.
For South Florida, it’s a chance to win an AAC game for the first time in 2020. The Bulls’ only victory so far this fall came in their season opener versus The Citadel.
Here’s what’s at stake Friday (3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN):
1. Mixed memories at Raymond James. The Knights most recently visited Tampa for the 2019 Gasparilla Bowl, a 48-25 victory over Marshall at Raymond James Stadium. The year before, UCF also ended the regular season in Tampa. But that 49-42 win over the Bulls was mitigated by the serious leg injury suffered by UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton has not played in a game since that contest, though he has been running as the scout-team quarterback for the Knights in recent weeks.
2. Can the UCF offense regain its touch? The Knights continue to lead the nation in passing (377.6 yards per game) while ranking second in total offense (586.6) and 11th in scoring (42.6). UCF set the school record for total offense just a year ago at 540.5 in 2019. But the Knights are coming off their lowest two total offense figures of the year in their last two outings (419 vs. Temple, 359 vs. Cincinnati). So how will UCF fare against a South Florida defense that rates 75th nationally (424.5) and a Bull pass defense that has allowed 215.8 yards per game (38th nationally, fourth in the AAC)?
3. The turnover game. UCF has prospered in great part by producing 20 opponent turnovers—to rank number one in the country in that category. The Knights lead the nation in recovering 11 fumbles. Meanwhile, South Florida has turned the ball over 15 times in 2020, to rank 90th in turnover margin (minus-0.38). The Bulls have thrown only six interceptions all season–and five of those came in one game (at AAC leader Cincinnati).
4. Road wins? No issue so far. UCF Friday will be seeking its fourth road win of the 2020 season. The only FBS teams to produce four road wins so far are SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Knights would have joined that group if not for a 50-49 road loss at Memphis, UCF’s lone away-from-home defeat this fall.
5. Schedule tilt. As the 2020 regular season closes, this marks the first time (admittedly because of scheduling issues due to COVID that eliminated many non-league games) in a decade and a half that the Knights have played a regular season with more road games slated than home contests. The last time that happened was in 2005, when UCF played only four regular-season games at home—while traveling to play at South Carolina, South Florida, Louisiana, Southern Miss, East Carolina, UAB and Rice.
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