It’s rivalry week in college football and everyone’s hyped.
Per usual, there’s been plenty of buzz and trash talking around the more popular games: Michigan vs. Ohio State, Alabama vs. Auburn, Florida State vs. Florida, etc.
Every year, we see our fair share of underdogs and upsets, but it’s rare to see an actual rivalry between two schools become more relevant so quickly.
After spending my last three and a half years at the University of South Florida, it’s safe to say I was surprisingly impressed by how intense the USF vs. UCF rivalry continues to grow.
Between the rapidly-improving athletic programs and the loyal, energetic fan bases, this feud has incredible potential to shine.
Social Media Savages
It’s no secret that fans take to social media when they want to cheer, vent or insult other teams.
But #USFHateWeek vs. #UCFHateWeek Twitter chats are almost just as fun to observe as the game itself.
Casually sitting in Tampa #USFHateWeek pic.twitter.com/emxezz4yPW — Chris Mancini (@cmancini21) November 24, 2015
Google knows best. #UCFhateweek pic.twitter.com/vdLyr3sgwR — UCF 0-11 (@Tophermejia) November 24, 2015
What's the different between UCF and my cereal? My cereal is in a bowl. #UCFHateWeek — taylor barchowski (@T_Barchowskii) November 23, 2015
#USFHateWeek but are there any fans left to hate? — Jon (@Jon_D_) September 9, 2015
Roses are red Violets are blue 11 other teams have beat you and we will too #UCFhateweek — Joe Martini (@JoeMartini90) November 23, 2015
Ironically, both UCF and South Florida's greatest football accomplishments landed on the same day. #USFHateWeek pic.twitter.com/8IKANEjKV7 — We Want Ducks (@WeWantDucks) November 24, 2015
Exploding Athletic Programs
When you look at USF’s football program alone, you’ll notice that head coach Willie Taggart has done a lot with a little.
There have been tons of tremendous athletes to walk through Tampa Bay these last couple of years, but very little establishment program-wide.
After using his last two losing seasons (and a rough 1-3 start to this season) as team motivation, the Bulls are likely to finish 8-4 after a visit to Orlando this Thanksgiving.
Aside from football, USF athletics continues to shine and hold legacies in the baseball, softball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, golf and volleyball departments.
UCF has similar bragging rights in the football, softball and women’s soccer.
And all programs are expected to only get better behind leadership of new athletic director Danny White.
Bottom line: Both athletic departments, specifically football programs are highly underrated.
Within the past six years or so, UCF has sent a significant number of players into the NFL including Matt Prater of Denver, Josh Sitton of Green Bay, Brandon Marshall of Chicago, Blake Bortles of Jacksonville, Asante Samuel of Atlanta and Jah Reid of Baltimore.
USF did similarly with Nate Allen of Oakland, Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie of New York (Giants) and Kayvon Webster of Denver.
As these programs grow, we can assume that we’ll begin hearing “Central Florida” and “South Florida” more often as starting NFL players introduce themselves in the first quarter line-ups.
When comparing USF and UCF to the larger, leading universities like University of Alabama and University of Michigan, the Florida universities have always competed size-wise with 2015 enrollment rates of 40,245 (USF) and 60,767 (UCF).
The majority of students I’ve met at my time down in Florida have decided to stay in their home state for college, making it probable that they have plenty of friends at other public universities that they can visit and more of an incentive to embrace a rivalry like this one.
The drive from one school to the other is super short and easy (only about an hour and a half).
If you combine these large, enthusiastic fan bases with the concept of southern tailgating and consistently gorgeous weather, you get the idea.
It also helps that USF’s football team plays at an NFL stadium where beer is served, unlike on-campus stadiums.
Although I am and always will be a USF Bull, I kept my bias opinions out of this piece.
However, for anyone who wants to know how myself and the rest of my fellow Bulls are feeling this week, please refer to this awesome open letter.