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Rivalry Week begins on Thanksgiving in Orlando

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This week is billed as “Rivalry Week” in college football with several traditional games taking place. The action begins on Thanksgiving night.

The surging South Florida Bulls make the I-4 trip to visit the Central Florida Knights. While the game is a matchup between rivals, Central Florida is not expected to slow down the Bulls.

After a 1-3 start, the Bulls have run off six victories in seven games to move to 7-4. The only loss was a 29-17 defeat at Navy, currently ranked No. 15 in the College Football Playoff rankings. USF led the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Coach Willie Taggert’s offense is clicking at the right time. Running back Marlon Mack’s 117 yards per game leads the American Conference and is 16th in the country. He is 203 yards shy of the school rushing record of 1,374 yards set by Andre Hall in 2005.

QB Quinton Flowers is the current Sunshine State Player of the Week following his four touchdown pass performance against Cincinnati. The Bulls’ offense is averaging 426 yards per game.

The Knights have had a season to forget. Numbers can often paint an incomplete picture, but in this case, they show precisely why UCF is on its way to an 0-12 season.

They are No. 127 out of 127 in total offense with only 274 yards per game. UCF is 115th in total defense.

As of Wednesday, odds makers were not even putting up a point spread for this game. That says it all.

This game has potentially high stakes for the Bulls. With a victory, they force No. 25 Temple to beat Connecticut on Saturday to claim the American Athletic Conference’s East Division title. If USF and Temple finish tied, the Bulls will play for the conference championship based on their 44-23 thrashing of the Owls two weeks ago.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Thursday from Bright House Networks Stadium. The game is televised by ESPN.

At the same time, another rivalry game takes place in Texas. The Texas Tech Red Raiders head to Austin to play the Texas Longhorns.

Texas Tech (6-5) has scored at least 50 points on six different occasions this season, but has allowed more than 50 points in five games. Texas (4-6) was expected to be firmly positioned to play in a post-season bowl game, but has endured disappointing losses. On the bright side, the Longhorns were the team that gave No. 3 Oklahoma its only loss of the season.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Fox Sports 1 provides the telecast.

On Friday, three games may be of interest to Florida football fans. Two have national playoff implications.

The game of the day takes place in Fort Worth, Texas, where No. 19 TCU hosts No. 7 Baylor. Baylor (10-1) stays alive for a spot in the College Football Playoffs with a victory.

TCU is trying to finish strong and was a last-second, two-point conversion away from knocking out Oklahoma this past Saturday.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. on Friday and will be shown on ESPN.

Miami closes its regular season at Pittsburgh. The Panthers (8-3) came the closest to defeating No. 4 Iowa, losing by three points in the third game of the season.

The Hurricanes (7-4) have had a few highs and lows. Immediately after the 58-0 debacle against Clemson, Miami had the miracle victory at Duke. It will need its best effort to defeat a good Panther team and head into its bowl game on a winning note.

Kickoff is noon Friday and will be shown on ESPN 2.

No. 4 Iowa travels to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Hawkeyes (11-0) look to complete a perfect season and head to the Big 10 Championship Game with the chance to nail down their spot in the College Football Playoffs.

Nebraska’s strong tradition will not help them against Iowa, but an earlier game just might. The Cornhuskers (5-6) upset No. 5 Michigan State, 39-38 two weeks ago to hand the Spartans their only loss. Five of Nebraska’s six losses have come by a combined total of 13 points.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on Friday and will be shown on ABC.

Other Friday games involving traditional rivals includes No. 20 Washington State at Washington and Oregon State at No. 17 Oregon.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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