South Florida-UCF Preview

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- - UCF doesn't see its game against South Florida as a big rivalry game, it sees it as a championship contest.

"We just look at it as another championship game, another conference game that we've got to win," senior wide receiver Jeffrey Godfrey said. "We're just going out there like every week, practicing hard for a championship game and not worrying about the rivalry (or) anything else anybody wants to call it."

The 17th-ranked Knights (9-1, 6-0) can clinch at least a share of the American Athletic Conference championship and move a step closer to a BCS bowl appearance with a victory over USF (2-8, 2-4) on Friday night.

UCF is 0-4 in the series, which has been referred to as the "War on I-4." The teams played from 2005-08, but have not met since, which may explain why the players don't see it the same way the two fan bases do.

Knights coach George O'Leary understands his players' perspective.

"You've got to understand, these kids were in junior high the last time we played," O'Leary said Monday. "If there's any still around, they're ineligible."

O'Leary has always been in favor of playing USF, and is happy that the two will now be meeting regularly since they both play in the AAC.

"I've always been pushing" to play South Florida every year, O'Leary said. "I think it would help both schools from a growth standpoint. I think it would help both schools from a stadium attendance capacity standpoint. I think it would help both schools from a fan interest standpoint.

"There are so many more positives than negatives. I don't know any negatives."

UCF offensive linemen Jordan and Justin McCray say they have not talked to their older brother, Cliff, who played in the 2007 game which USF won 64-12.

"We didn't get to make it to that game, but I remember (UCF) definitely didn't do well against them," Justin McCray said. "I guess we can look at that and say we definitely need to play a lot better than that, but I think we're a better team.

"We practice really hard and we're going to go out there and do what we need to do."

UCF has certainly been on a roll with six consecutive victories, and the Knights can match the 2007 team for the longest winning streak in program history.

The game, which will be the 400th since the UCF program's inception in 1979, will also give the Knights a chance to reach double-digit victories for the second consecutive season and the third time in the past four years.

While the UCF players may be downplaying the significance of the rivalry, there is one challenge they are acknowledging: O'Leary has told them they have yet to play their best game of the season, where both sides of the ball and the special teams are really clicking.

"He's mentioned it, not just this week, but pretty much every game this year," Jordan McCray said. "We want to come together as a team to put together a great effort overall, not just in one phase of the game."

Friday's game will also be part of a special week for the Knights, who will celebrate Thanksgiving dinner at the team hotel, then play the final home game for eight seniors the next day.

"Really, we just want to make sure we're focused on the game itself and get the win," offensive lineman Jordan McCray said. "Everything else will fall into place. As long as we get the win, and play hard and do the thing we're supposed to do, it will be a good night."

UCF cruised to a 41-17 home victory over Rutgers last Thursday, while USF's skid reached four with a 16-6 loss to visiting SMU on Saturday.

"We have another opportunity under the spotlight to show up and show out," coach Willie Taggart told the Bulls' official website. "That's what everyone is looking for is a complete game."