Bulls expecting UCF's best game of 2015
Collectively, USF's staff has coached or played in some of the nation's most prominent rivalries including Oklahoma-Texas, Florida-FSU, Ole Miss-Mississippi State and Stanford-Cal.
As a result of those experiences, the Bulls coaches have had no problem reaching a consensus this week: They will get winless UCF's most inspired effort of the year.
"You've got to be really mature as a team to not fall for what you see on film," said defensive coordinator Tom Allen, preparing his unit for a decimated Knights offense that ranks last in Division I-A (274.4 ypg). "That's not what you're gonna see. These rivalry games bring out a whole different element. ... You can't discount that."
On Monday, Allen recalled the 2013 Egg Bowl, a 17-10 Mississippi State overtime triumph in Starkville. Then Ole Miss' special teams coordinator/linebackers coach, Allen watched injured Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott (shoulder) come off the bench to rally the hosts, who entered the game 5-6.
"Even though they weren't winless, they were still having a season that was less than they had hoped," Allen said. "But beating Ole Miss was all they needed to do to have a successful season."
Interim Knights coach Danny Barrett, promoted after George O'Leary retired following UCF's 0-7 start, said his team will be motivated by all the rivalry's familiar elements: proximity of the schools, intensity of the matchup and the Knights' two-game win streak in the series.
"It's our final home game, it's the last game for a handful of seniors that we have," Barrett said. "So our guys are gonna go out and play hard for sure and try to finish off this year with at least one positive in the midst of a tough year."
NICHOLS HONORED: As expected, Bulls sophomore CB Deatrick Nichols was named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of Week on Monday following his career game (two interceptions, one returned for a TD, eight tackles) in Friday's 65-27 rout of Cincinnati.
"Other than giving up that long ball (on a Bearcats TD), he had a phenomenal game," Allen said. "The thing he does, he studies film better than anybody that I've had on the back end. Therefore, he anticipates and can jump routes. The pick-six he got was because of film study."
EMPTYING THE BENCH: A fringe benefit to Friday's rout of Cincinnati was offensive line coach Danny Hope rotating liberally up front for one of the few times this season.
Hope, who has used the same starting line all year and has substituted minimally the last couple of months, used 10 offensive linemen against Cincinnati.
"It was good to get the (starters) out of there," Hope said after Monday morning's practice. "I think they were a little fresher and healthier to start this week off. There's been a lot of football in 2 1/2 weeks, so being able to play our (backups) is big in a lot of ways."
Among those not used Friday was Stanford transfer Reilly Gibbons, essentially cementing his redshirt status this season.
ODDS AND ENDS: In ESPN's latest bowl projections, Brett McMurphy projects a USF-Western Kentucky matchup in the Miami Beach Bowl, while Mark Schlabach predicts Bulls-Old Dominion in the St. Petersburg Bowl. ... Hope, who has been part of more rivalry games than any other staffer, said Colorado State-Wyoming (the "Border War") is the most underrated one he has experienced. "Unbelievable, and I've been in a bunch of (rivalries)," said Hope, a Wyoming assistant in 1996. "That one really caught me off-guard." ... Allen said he never has been associated with a first half like Friday's, when the Bulls built a 51-3 lead. "I don't even remember beating a bad team like that," he said.
AUDIBLE: "They changed up some things offensively than what they did before. ... But the key is that Chuck was there. He knows the personnel, what type of players they are, what type of people that they are, and that's really the only advantage you would get." -- Barrett on whether Knights (and former USF) defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan can provide any type of edge for UCF