The Predictions: Finally Caring About a War

by Gary Shelton on November 24, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Friday, 2 a.m.

Suppose they had a war and nobody cared?

Most of the time, that's been the case when USF played UCF. Most of the time, it was easy to change the channel and watch something else.

This year, it counts. This year, each team has a season worth savoring on the line.

UCF is undefeated and ranked 13th in the country. It's ranked behind a half-dozen two-loss teams, which means that if it can get past the Bulls, it's probably headed for a top 10 ranking.

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USF has one loss and is ranked 22nd in the nation. It's ranked behind five three-loss teams, which means it can be somewhere around 15th in the country if it can win this.

Finally. A War on I-4 that we have waited for.

Oh, the fans have always been primed. Both sets hungered for a football rival. But they've played only eight times.

In 2005, USF was only 6-6, and UCF was only 8-5. There wasn't much reason to pay attention to USF's 31-14 win except to see how many yards Andre Hall would get (155).

In 2006, USF improved to 9-4. But UCF was only 4-8. Who cared that the Bulls won 24-17? Except for Matt Groethe, who threw for 302 yards.

In 2007, both teams were better. USF was 9-4. USF was 10-4. But USF blew the Knights away, 64-12. Not much drama there.

In 2008, USF was only 8-5, UCF 4-8. USF won 31-24, and that did it for the war. For a while.

In 2013, the teams resumed play. And Blake Bortles threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to lead a 23-20 UCF win. UCF finished 12-1, but USF was only 2-10.

In 2014, UCF was 9-4, still pretty good. And USF was 4-8. UCF won 16-0, but it wasn't a big headline.

In 2015, UCF was near the end of a 0-12 season. USF finished 8-5 and won 44-3.

A year ago, UCF was an improved team, but USF was still ahead. It won 48-31.

This year, UCF seems to have zipped around USF in the passing lane. It's beaten more prestigious teams by a more impressive margin. USF still has some offense, but UCF seems to have most of the momentum.

Does USF have a puncher's chance? It hasn't looked like it lately. It's offense hasn't had the same impact as earlier in the year.To win, it will have to run the ball, and to loosen up the defense, it's going to have to throw.

Prediction: UCF 31, USF 24

FSU at Florida

Spies should be made to watch this. Neither team can move the ball well, and neither defense has played up to expectations. Put it this way: If the score is tied with two minutes to go, and you could have either offense to drive it 80 yards, which one would you take?

There are still more highly recruited players on the FSU sideline. Somehow, that should make the difference. Right?

Prediction: FSU 6, Florida 3

Miami at Pitt

The Panthers are only 4-7, but they've lost a bunch of close games. And this could be another one. UM might suffer from the road.

In the end, however, the Hurricanes are an improving team that is beginning to believe. No, the Hurricanes aren't back yet — their talent isn't what it used to be. Still, winning is the bottom line, and UM should find a way once again.

Prediction: UM 23, Pitt 20

The Pros

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Say what you want about close wins and backup quarterbacks, but the fact remains: If Tampa Bay can sneak one out against the Falcons, it would be hard not to take them seriously again. To do so, the Bucs need to be able to run the ball a bit — they haven't gained a lot lately. They'd have to play well on defense, and they'd have to cover Julio Jones. All of that is a lot to ask for. Too much, probably.

Prediction: Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 14

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