ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Update: UCF beat USF 49 - 42. UCF remains undefeated.
More than 45,000 people filled the University of Central Florida’s Spectrum Stadium Friday to watch the school’s undefeated football team take on the University of South Florida.
When the No. 13-ranked UCF Knights and No. 22 South Florida Bulls tangle in their annual rivalry game, it's always an emotion-filled grudge match.
This year's showdown will also be the prelude to a potential championship and another step toward a major bowl bid.
UCF and USF played Friday for the American Athletic Conference's East Division title and a spot in the Dec. 2 AAC championship game against Memphis, which has already clinched the West Division.
"I don't have to do anything to get our guys ready to play this one," UCF coach Scott Frost said. "I hope every seat in the stands is full. If we can get it loud and rocking in there, that gives us an advantage. It's another chance to showcase who we are and what we've become."
Two seasons ago, before Frost was hired, the Knights finished 0-12. Now, they’re undefeated.
Bulls first-year coach Charlie Strong said that the turnaround speaks for itself.
"That team is very explosive, and it's a well-coached team," Strong said. "They play with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. It's going to be a really big challenge for us. We have to play at our best. That's the only way we can win this game. We have to play our best."
Frost and Strong agreed that the game's biggest factor probably can't be quantified. The emotion of a rivalry game can cause unexpected twists and turns.
UCF fan Luke Sarris said that he’s confident that the Knights can maintain their momentum to pull off a win before a sellout crowd.
"The rivalry isn't as historic as Florida and Florida State, but this is the biggest game for our season," the alumnus said. "Naturally, this is going to be the best crowd of the season."
UCF is trying to position itself for the program's fifth conference title. USF hasn't won a conference title in its 21-season history.
The rivalry game is part of the “War on I-4” department-wide sports series between the schools, which are separated by 85 miles of Interstate 4.
Last season marked the debut of the football game's War on I-4 trophy, which includes a detachable pewter replica of an I-4 road sign. USF leads the series 6-2.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cox Media Group