End of USF series puzzles UCF's O'Leary

USF’s Taurus Johnson makes a catch in front of UCF’s Johnell Neal last season. Saturday marks the series’ final game.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times (2007)

USF’s Taurus Johnson makes a catch in front of UCF’s Johnell Neal last season. Saturday marks the series’ final game.

TAMPA — Central Florida coach George O'Leary said Wednesday that he still doesn't understand why USF isn't interested in continuing an annual series.

"One side gets it," O'Leary said during a teleconference. "The other side, I don't know what the problem is."

O'Leary, whose Knights host the No. 17 Bulls on Saturday night, said the rivalry reminds him of when he was at Georgia Tech and there was an annual game with Georgia.

"It was different conferences, but that had nothing to do with playing the game," he said. "With Georgia, it was about locale and distance; being in the same state. It's very similar to what you have here."

Georgia and Georgia Tech are in BCS conferences, as is USF. UCF, the defending Conference USA champion, is not. Asked if Georgia Tech played any annual rivalry games against teams who weren't in major conferences, O'Leary said he didn't.

"Georgia was the one that was our rivalry game," he said.

O'Leary said he wasn't worried about his players getting too emotional or overexcited knowing Saturday is UCF's last scheduled chance to beat USF.

"I don't even think they know it's the last time they're playing them," he said. "I haven't said anything to them about that. They don't look at it as the last time playing them. It's the game on Saturday. It just happens to be a team 60 miles away."

USF coach Jim Leavitt declined to respond.

Injuries: Leavitt said his top two running backs, senior Ben Williams and sophomore Mike Ford, are "probable" and "questionable," respectively, for Saturday as they nurse ankle injuries. Sophomore Trent Pupello, the No. 2 tight end, was on crutches Monday night and in a boot Tuesday but just had the ankle wrapped as he watched practice Wednesday. Leavitt gave him a "50-50" chance of playing.

Florida: Assistant likes playing for a trophy

GAINESVILLE — When No. 5 Florida and Miami meet Saturday, the War Canoe Trophy will be awarded to the winner.

Defensive line coach Dan McCarney, in his first season with the Gators, does not have experience with this rivalry but knows a lot about other ones, especially their trophies, from his coaching days at Iowa (1977-89), Wisconsin (1990-94) and Iowa State (1995-2006).

He fondly remembers the Telephone Trophy (Iowa-Missouri), Cy-Hawk Trophy (Iowa-Iowa State), Paul Bunyan's Axe (Minnesota-Wisconsin), Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa-Minnesota) and Heartland Trophy (Iowa-Wisconsin).

"I love trophies," McCarney said. "I was in the Iowa State-Iowa rivalry. And for 15 years in a row, all they could do is send postcards and pictures to us at Iowa State because we never saw it."

While winning the War Canoe would be nice, he also enjoys the pageantry associated with such a game.

"How good does this get?" McCarney said. "You get a chance to play in a game like this and coach in a game like this. … This is as good as it gets."

INJURIES: Coach Urban Meyer said he expects LB Brandon Spikes (right foot) and WR Percy Harvin (right heel) to play against Miami. He has not decided if they will start and said the game would dictate how much they play.

"Percy was gimping around a little bit, but he went," Meyer said. "Brandon looked fine to me."

OL Jim Tartt (shoulder) will be available but likely not start. OL Maurice Hurt (shoulder) is out.

Miami: Coach knows matchup's importance

CORAL GABLES — Whether he will say it or not, Saturday's game at UF almost certainly is the biggest so far for second-year Miami coach Randy Shannon.

"It's a big game for the program," he said after practice. "It's going to show where we're at as a football team. And I'm part of the program. It's going to show where we are as a coaching staff, where we are as a football team, how we compare to a Top 5 team in the country."

Times correspondent Phil Kegler contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press.

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Up next

USF: at UCF, 7 Saturday, ESPN2

Florida: vs. Miami, 8 Saturday, ESPN

End of USF series puzzles UCF's O'Leary 09/03/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 6, 2008 6:30pm]

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