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Finally, UCF-USF meant something to lots of people

Posted on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 5:00 am

Ken Jackson
Picks of the Weak

Saturday’s annual Florida-Florida State matchup was watched — I suppose people looked at it — with less of the anticipation of years past, and more snickering, wincing and more talk about the coaches than the players.

That’s sad. When you’ve growng up in this state, that game almost always dictated which one would be in the national championship discussion.

The discussion has given way to whining. Or laughing and pointing from fans of, say, Miami. Then their season died last week.

On the other hand, UCF fans are very much alive even if the CFP, which if you ask them stands for College Football PonziScheme, won’t acknowledge their existence because, you know, Power 5.

You don’t have to bleed black and gold to recognize the incredible Black Friday game with USF. What can you say about a game that:

Had three “Oh no, we scored too soon!” moments in the final 2:20;

In a 49-42 game, a defensive play (a forced fumble) is what put the game away;

Saw USF QB Quinton Flowers throw for 503 yards, run for 102 yards, set school single-game records for the yardage, account for six touchdowns, … and still lose!

The best part about it, for around here, wasn’t just the outcome. And yes, I’m one of the bleeders. I was there in person and it was the darnedest thing I’ve ever seen in person in any sport.

The best part is that a lot of people saw it, and got to experience what the rivalry is all about and why it’s so important between Sanford and Sarasota.

Don’t just take my word for it. ESPN’S PR people said Friday’s game got a 3.2 national rating on ABC, up 45 percent from whatever was on at 3:30 on Black Friday last year, and it’s the third-highest rated Black Friday 3:30 p.m. game for ABC since 2002.

It became high-profile to lots of people, and based on the talent shown, it should stay that way for the next couple of years — no matter who is coaching UCF then.

If I thought it’d help Scott Frost stay, I’d add him here, to the Mighty News-Gazette Divine Nine:

  1. The War on I-4 victors. 2. War Eagle. 3. The Eagles in Philly. 4. Boomer Sooner. 5. The Defending Champion Clemson. 6. Wisconsin, the country’s other undefeated. 7. Memphis Tigers. 8. Memphis barbeque. 9. Quinton Flowers. 999. USF. (I love that it’s my column and I get to do that!)

And now for some picks, starting with today’s conference championship games:

American: Memphis at UCF (-7.5): Defense was big for Knights in regular-season 40-13 win. You saw how tired those guys are on Black Friday. Black and Gold by just 3.

ACC: Miami vs. Clemson (-7.5): This season we got a good glimpse of the ‘Canes we loved to hate years ago. All the reason to root for the ‘U’, but … Defending Champions by 7.

Big 10: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (-6): Badgers’ underdog status makes it clear the Vegas wiseguys get their undefeated record is a sham. Buckeyes by 13.

SEC: Auburn (-2.5) vs. Georgia: Winner goes to the CFP Invitational semifinals. Loser gets the UCF-Memphis winner in the Peach Bowl. A lot of people oughta watch what they wish for … Auburn (again) by 6.

Big 12: Oklahoma (-7) vs. TCU: Based on results and schedule, Sooners might be the nation’s best team. Without the Big 12, TCU is UCF. Oklahoma by 10.

The paid professionals …

Tampa Bay (-2) at Green Bay: Ryan Fitzpatrick against Brett Hundley. Wouldn’t have even been a good bowl game back in the day. Packers by 6 in Bucs Never Won Up There Back in the Day Upset Special.

Denver (-1) at Miami: Trevor Siemian against Matt Moore. That’s not even a good horror plot. Broncos by 3 because, whatever.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville (-9.5): The Jags are the second-biggest favorites of the weekend. If UCF, Blake Bortles’ alma mater, can go from 0-12 to 11-0 in two years, I guess anything’s possible. Bortles and the Boys by 7.

Philadelphia (-6) at Seattle: Seahawks’ pad is a tough one to play in. I get the Eagles are good, but did Seattle suddenly get really bad and I hadn’t heard? Green Birds by just 2.

Pittsburgh (-5.5) at Cincinnati: Big Ben throws many passes to Antonio Brown but otherwise sleepwalks through three quarters, then they wake up in the fourth in time to win. If you have the script, why watch? Steelers by 3.

Brian “Big Man” McBride’s Super Sniffer Upset Special: Panthers over Saints by 3.

Petey “The Gators are Gonna Win” Covino says: “Well, they won’t lose.”

Rick Pedone, showing signs of life, says: The U rebounds by 3 and finally owns the ACC; Fins over Broncos by 4 because, well, just because.