Knights and Bulls Battle for American Conference Title spot in War on I-4

Written by Garin Turner

​It’s rivalry week as The War on I-4 is here today at 2:30 PM CST on ABC as the No. 15 (College Football Playoff) UCF Knights take on the No. 22 (AP) South Florida Bulls in a game that means a lot for both teams. A win means a AAC title game berth. This is the ninth meeting between the teams with seven of the last eight meetings going to the winner with the better record. USF holds a 6-2 lead in the series.

This is the first time both teams are ranked. USF’s only loss came against Houston. The winner will face Memphis for the Athletic Conference Championship game. UCF will have to block out the distractions of being ranked 15 despite being undefeated. Realistically, they need to win out and have total chaos happen to have a shot at the College Football Playoffs. There’s also the distraction of the head coach Scott Frost and if he’s “going home” to his alma mater the Nebraska Cornhuskers despite them not firing their current head coach yet. The University of Tennessee also has their eyes on Frost.

This is Frost’s first stint as a head coach. Just two years ago before he arrived UCF was winless. His first year as a coach the Knights went 6-7 earning a bowl berth in the process. No other team since 1996 has gone winless and then went on to win 10 games in under two years. The Knights are in the midst of a 10-game streak of scoring 30 plus points.

USF has only scored less than 30 points twice this season. Their only loss of the season back in October at home against Houston 28-24 and last week a 27-20 home victory over Tulsa. This game could come down to who has the ball last as UCF is averaging 48.2 points a game while USF 37.9. Both teams are above 40% on third down conversions and they rarely turn the ball over.

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton has provided a lot of offense for the Knights this year both passing and with his legs. Milton has 26 touchdowns on the season with just five interceptions. He’s thrown for 2,928 yards on 192 of 276 attempts. He’s also the second leading rusher on the team. He’s carried the ball 71 times for 373 yards and five touchdowns.

It’s not just Milton in the running game that USF has to worry about. The Knights have 33 touchdowns on the ground this year to go along with 2,022 yards on 385 carries. Adrian Killins Jr. and Cordarrian Richardson are tied with eight touchdowns to lead the Knights. Killins has 84 carries for 629 yards and Richardson has 45 carries for 161 yards.

When Milton drops back to pass, his main target on the season has been Tre’Quan Smith. Smith has 44 receptions for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns. Four other UCF receivers have 20 plus receptions.

The Bulls have their own rushing attack coming into this game. Dual threat QB Quinton Flowers, running backs Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson will look to control the game and keep UCF’s high-powered offense off the field. Flowers has carried the ball 162 times for 870 yards and nine touchdowns. Tice has 154 carries for 860 yards and 10 scores and Johnson has 166 carries for 715 yards and seven touchdowns for a Bulls team that has 27 touchdowns on the year on 547 carries and 2,769 yards.

Flowers is just as dangerous when he drops back to pass as he is with his legs. On the year Flowers has 17 touchdowns to five interceptions. He has 2,097 yards on 147 of 275 attempts.

This game should be one of the better ones in the last week of the season before conference championship games start next weekend.

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