The War on I-4 was one of the very best games of 2017. With the AAC East championship on the line, 10-0 UCF hosted 9-1 South Florida before a national television audience and a packed Spectrum Stadium crowd. It was a game the visiting Bulls led 34-28 entering the fourth quarter, UCF rocketed forward to take a 42-34 lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida tied with 1:41 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion, and then UCF immediately wrestled the lead back with game-winning 95-yard kickoff return.
Regardless of classification, conference, what have you, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games of the entire season.
Fast forward a year with the scene shifting to Tampa and it’s safe to say the atmosphere will not be the. UCF is controls its fate to win the American, but South Florida does not. The Bulls are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play.
With their rivals traveling southeast on Interstate 4 (hence the rivalry’s name) South Florida’s powers-that-be were apparently nervous about black-and-gold taking over the green-and-gold in their own stadium, so they decided to give out some free tickets.
It’s not exactly fair to say USF has worse fans than UCF. USF shares its home with a pro team while UCF does not. Thus, USF has to fill a larger stadium (65,890) than UCF (45,031). Knights fans also get to root for a better team than Bulls fans, at least over those past two seasons.
Even given those caveats, it still may be more embarrassing to give out free tickets to your rivalry game rather than just selling them to your rivals.
South Florida hosts No. 11 UCF at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Friday.
If Chase Winovich and Breckyn Hager happen to run into each other at any point during the 2019 NFL Draft process, the two will have a lot to talk about. Both players are defensive ends. Both are known for the long blond locks that flow out of the backs of their helmets. Both are not afraid to run their mouths, and because of those last two items, both are players their rivals love to hate.
Hager, who famously refused to cut his hair until Texas won a Big 12 championship, famously proclaimed that Oklahoma “sucks” and “has no defense” before being forced to apologize by the Big 12. Squaring off against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game with a chance to cut his hair in the face of a bitter rival, Hager recorded one solo tackle in a 39-27 loss. He since deleted his Twitter account.
That brings us to Winovich.
The Michigan defensive end famously proclaimed the Wolverines were on a revenge tour and called Michigan State “little brother” after the maize and blue beat the green and white for the third time in 11 years in October.
Heading into the ultimate game on Michigan’s revenge tour, the Wolverines… flopped. Ohio State rolled up 567 yards on Michigan’s top-ranked defense in a 62-39 blowout.
Winovich’s response to that loss? Rather than follow the lead of his doppleganger, he went in the other direction.
“I would say to any recruit or any potential guy who sees what happened in the Ohio State game and is persuaded against coming to Michigan because of that, I would say that alone is a mirage,” Winovich said following Michigan’s team awards ceremony on Sunday, via the Detroit Free Press. “And you should not be fooled. What we’ve built here and what we’ll continue to build is a powerhouse. That’s the Michigan I’m leaving. A Michigan that’s competitive in its trajectory.
“The sky’s the limit.”
Much like Hager, Winovich believes in himself and his team, sometimes too much. Like when he gives Ohio State the fodder to create this.
Aren’t rivalries healthy and constructive?
The four men that revived and then carried Temple football through this decade have all been first-time head coaches. It seems like we’re close to making it five-for-five.
Yahoo‘s Pete Thamel reported on Tuesday that Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is close to becoming the next head coach with Temple. His report was since followed with confirmations from a number of other outlets.
In his third season with the Hurricanes, Diaz has successfully revived his stock after he was fired mid-season at Texas in 2013. Amid a disappointing 7-5 season that began with a top-10 ranking, Diaz’s defense ranks No. 2 nationally in total defense and in or around the top 15 in every major statistical category. Prior to this season, Diaz’s defense led the way as Miami won its first 10 games and rose to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff poll in November.
In addition to Miami and Texas, the 44-year-old has also coordinated defenses for Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech.
The Temple job has become an attractive one for coaches, as first-timers have proven they can go to Philadelphia, win for a couple years and then move on to a Power 5 job. That’s what Al Golden did (to Miami). And Steve Addazio (Boston College), Matt Rhule (Baylor) and Geoff Collins, who got the Georgia Tech job after going 15-10 in two seasons.
In fact, one has to wonder if the Machiavellian play for Diaz, a Miami native and the son of a former Miami mayor of the same name, is to take the Temple job, watch the Mark Richt regime implode from afar without him around to run the defense, and then return as head coach in 2020 or 2021.
For the second time today, a highly-productive running back has decided to ply his wares in the NFL.
Via Twitter, Devin Singletary announced that, as expected, he will be leaving Florida Atlantic early in order to enter his name into the 2019 NFL Draft pool. “I hope I left a lasting impression on The University, football program, and the entire community,” Singletary wrote.
Singletary has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of the last three seasons, including a career-high 1,920 in 2017. He’s also been an absolute scoring machine, totaling 66 rushing touchdowns in his career.
Those touchdowns, 54 of which came the past two years, put Singletary sixth on the NCAA’s all-time list in that category.
The past three seasons, Ben Hicks has been SMU’s starting quarterback. Thanks to a surprising development, he won’t get the opportunity to make it a fourth next season.
In an interview with 247Sports.com, Hicks confirmed that he has informed head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee of his decision to transfer from the Mustangs. The redshirt junior has one season of eligibility remaining, which he can use at another FBS program next year as a graduate transfer.
As for why he pulled the trigger on a decision to transfer?
“Looking for a new opportunity, new growth,” Hicks told the website. “Just a chance to really start fresh in my last year and move forward with the rest of my life, whether that be football or whether that be finding out where I’m at.
“The decision was obviously very difficult because I’ve been extremely fortunate to play a lot of football here and meet great friends. I’ve always had a great support staff so the decision was very difficult. You got to make some tough decisions sometimes and this was one I felt like I needed to make.”
Hicks will leave the Mustangs as its leader in a significant number of major statistical categories, including passing yards (9,081) and passing touchdowns (71). Conversely, he also threw 34 interceptions and completed just over 56 percent of his passes.
With Hicks’ departure, the Mustangs are now left with four scholarship quarterbacks, all either true or redshirt freshman, on the roster — William Brown, Derek Green, Jacob Oehrlein and Austin Upshaw. Brown, who served as Hicks’ primary backup, completed 53-of-85 passes for 625 yards, seven touchdowns and an interception. Upshaw attempted a pair of passes this past season.