TAMPA -- Willie Taggart showed his players video of the games between his USF football team and UCF.
They saw packed stadiums and frenzied fans similar to what college football has come to know in big time rivalries like Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Florida State, Michigan-Ohio State and USC-UCLA.
The USF-UCF rivalry was intense and at times ugly with passions creating some bad blood. It lasted only four years ending in 2008.
USF won all four games, but then Bulls head coach Jim Leavitt wanted to end the series. He felt facing teams such as Florida, Miami and FSU would do a lot more for his program. And he dreaded the idea of what losing to UCF could do to recruiting.
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USF was in the Big East, a BCS conference where the winner qualified for a BCS bowl. Now both are in the American Athletic Conference and after this season the winner is guaranteed nothing.
The Bulls back then had everything to lose and nothing to gain by beating UCF. Now, you might say the situation has reversed. USF is a 27 point underdog to the Knights, ranked 17th in the AP Poll and 19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
"When I first got this job (last December) I learned quickly what this rivalry means to our fans and alumni," Taggart said. "We don't want to play the role of spoilers. We want to beat UCF. This game affects recruiting. This game is what college football is about."
The Knights (9-1, 6-0 AAC) can earn the conference's last BCS Bowl bid by winnings its final two games. USF (2-8, 2-4) is playing for next season and a little respectability.
The game apparently means more to UCF fans this year with reports that USF returned 2,800 tickets out of 5,000 it was given for Friday's game at Bright House Networks Stadium on the UCF campus. The game, scheduled for an 8 p.m kickoff, will be televised by ESPN.
UCF head coach George O'Leary lobbied vigorously to have this rivalry renewed, and losing to a struggling
Bulls team would be devastating to his reputation.
"I've always wanted it. Now we are in the same conference and will see them every year," O'Leary said. "It's great for the Tampa and Orlando area. It's great for both teams and their attendance. I've always been a big pusher of playing each year. Now we don't have to push it."
It doesn't appear he has to worry much about an upset. Though the Bulls defense, especially its front four, has been solid, USF just hasn't shown it has enough offense to make this game competitive.
USF ranks 120 out of 123 FBS teams in total offense, is last with only nine offensive touchdowns and 118th in scoring (13.9 ppg.) UCF is averaging almost 36 points per game.
"We have to do a better job of scoring points and not hurting ourselves when we get on the one yard line," Taggart said. "We have to take care of the football first and foremost. Being able to run the football is something we haven't done the last few weeks and we need to do a better job of that."
The Bulls' defense has been solid, but in UCF's Blake Bortles, it will be dealing with one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The junior has thrown for 2,819 yards with 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
"Our front four did a great job last week (against SMU), and we have to continue that," Taggart said. "He is smart and elusive and confident in what he is doing. Our guys have to understand the game plan and play with fanatical effort."
After ranking last in 2012 with only two interceptions, the Bulls have picked off 10 passes led by freshman Hassan Childs, who has three. USF ranks 13th nationally with 7.5 tackles for loss per game, and the defense has held five of its six conference opponents to below their season offensive average.
"We have simplified everything and let our guys play fast on the field," USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said. "Up front, we don't want to be a sit and read defense. We want to attack with gap control, and our guys have done a great job of executing pressure when we bring a fifth or six man involved in the rush."