Notebook: Stakes for the War on I-4 could be higher than ever

By Sam Newlon, Staff Writer
On October 18, 2017

SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

This year’s War on I-4 between UCF and USF on Nov. 24 could be one of unprecedented value.

The potential stakes for the game if the two remain undefeated: The winner hosts the AAC championship game with a shot at a potential trip to the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl — a New Year’s Six bowl game, which grants an automatic bid to the highest ranked non-power-five team.

The Bulls are currently ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25, while UCF is No. 20. The only other non-power-five school ranked is No. 25 Memphis, which lost to UCF 40-13 on Sept. 30.

UCF and USF have never played each other when both teams were ranked and neither school has played another ranked team in 2017. There are no ranked opponents on either UCF or USF’s schedules besides each other.

USF secured its bowl eligibility with its win over Cincinnati on Saturday, and UCF (5-0-0) is one victory from doing the same. Both teams are favored to win each of its remaining regular season games — five AAC games for USF, one out of conference and four AAC games for UCF — until the Black Friday showdown.

Averaging 50.6 points per game, UCF has been one of the nation’s most potent offenses this season. The Knights’ quarterback, McKenzie Milton, has thrown for 1,489 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Equally impressive, however, has been the Bulls’ defense in 2017, which is second in the nation with 18 turnovers gained and leads the nation with 15 total interceptions.

The game, which doesn’t have an announced kickoff time yet, will be played at Spectrum Field in Orlando. The Bulls are 6-2 all-time against the Knights in football, holding a 3-1 series advantage over the Knights in Orlando.

Nadelman earns AAC Honors

USF kicker Emilio Nadelman made all four of his field goal attempts Saturday, adding three extra points for a total of 15 points. The game earned him AAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.

Nadelman, who said after Saturday’s game that he wears noise-canceling headphones on the sidelines during games, has made his last 13 kicks.

In addition to player of the week, Nadelman was added to the AP Mid-Season All-America Second Team on Tuesday night. The team was selected by a panel of 16 AP Top 25 poll voters.

In 2016, the Miami native made 10 total field goals. In 2017, he’s already made 14 with at least six more games to play.

A season high in attendance

In their homecoming victory over Cincinnati, the Bulls drew a crowd of 38,121 people, according to the Tampa Sports Authority.

The turnout was the Bulls’ highest in a game against a non-power-5 opponent since the 2011 season, when the Bulls routed Florida A&M 70-17.

“You love the crowd,” coach Charlie Strong said. “And the thing about it, that’s the way it should be.”

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