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The biggest game in USF history. Period.

It's on to UCF for Chrlie Strong, with everything on the line
USF quarterback Quinton Flowers and the Bulls are heading for a showdown with UCF. (OCTAVIO JONES   |  Times)
USF quarterback Quinton Flowers and the Bulls are heading for a showdown with UCF. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Nov. 17, 2017
Updated Nov. 17, 2017

The biggest game in USF football history.

It's seven days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. Next Friday at UCF's ON-CAMPUS stadium. The 9-1 Bulls against the perfect Knights, provided the perfect Knights stay perfect Saturday at Temple. It's the matchup within the matchup: USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost.

If this is ever going to be a rivalry, a real rivalry, this is where it starts, Black Friday in Orlando.

The biggest game in USF football history.

Thursday night could have been the biggest loss in USF football history, but the Bulls held off Tulsa 27-20 on senior night. That's the way this season has set up – top of the world or a one-way ticket to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

The biggest game in USF football history.

It's all sitting right there for USF, for seniors like quarterback Quinton Flowers and linebacker Auggie Sanchez. Even after the perfect season went away against Houston – that dreadful fourth-and-24 – it's all still there.

A chance at beating UCF and ruining UCF's season in the process. A chance at playing in the AAC championship game, probably in Memphis. A chance at that first conference title that USF has been chasing – but not coming close to winning – for two decades. Throw in a trip to a New Year's Six Bowl, the Peach Bowl, which would be another USF first.

It's why Strong was brought here, maybe as a one-and-done, to close this deal on the way out the door. I've got a news flash for him: He's pretty much not going out the door if he doesn't pull this off.

Does USF really need any motivation?

It has the delicious opportunity to grab something while at the same time taking it away from UCF, and we don't mean the storied, year-old "War on I-4" trophy, a concoction that features a pewter interstate road sign that can be pulled like Excalibur from the trophy's 160-pound base.

Hey, what do you want? It's USF-UCF. Would you prefer they play for the Old Oaken Parking Space? They're working on this thing, okay?

The biggest game in USF history.

If you're Strong, you've got your speech.

The pressure is on UCF's Knights. They're the ones with the perfect season. They're the ones who have everything to lose.

True, USF does, too.

But look for that underdog silver lining.

Pretend, for a moment, that UCF is ahead of USF as a football program. Pretend that UCF has better facilities, that on-campus stadium, an indoor practice building, and that is has broken ground on a football-only building. Pretend that UCF has already been to a major bowl game, the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, where it stunned No. 5 Baylor.

Oh, wait. All that stuff is true.

UCF is ahead. If there's ever another round of conference expansion, and USF and UCF are a package deal, UCF is on top.

By the looks of USF of Thursday, next Friday could be gruesome. UCF is averaging nearly 50 points per game. USF managed just three points in the second half against 2-8 Tulsa team that was giving up 38 points per game on average. Can USF stay toasty when faced with a late November Frost?

No matter. USF made it to this game. It made it to UCF with everything still possible. It's all still there. The Bulls have to run off two straight road wins against UCF and Memphis, teams that are a combined 17-1.

The Bulls are trying to summit, but along a ridge line with a 7,000-foot drop-off on either side. One false step and it's gentlemen, start your Bad Boy Mowers.

I would refuse to accept the bid. If I was Charlie, I'd take the kids to the beach instead. Or maybe the Bulls will find their way to a bowl in Boca Raton or Birmingham. Who cares? It would be two other tickets to nowhere. A failed season, pure and simple. Next Friday is the moment. If not then, when?

The biggest game in USF football history.