UCF, USF I-4 rivalry has ways to go to gain exposure
Typically the crowd at a home University of South Florida football game resembles that of a Christmas display at your local store. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is typically speckled with green USF shirts and its traditional scarlet seats — as it also is the home stadium to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, over the weekend, USF played host to what ended up appearing to be a UCF home game. The crowd had an estimated 70 percent UCF fans, and the attendance was announced at a generous 36,963. I would guess there were closer to 30,000 fans in attendance.
But what the "War on I-4" showed is the vast differences in the direction of both programs. A man who was once dubbed as the man poised to turn USF around, Willie Taggart, had circles coached around him by the UCF coaching staff. On the field, the USF players were outplayed across the board — just as its fans were in the stands.
The arrow is pointing up in Orlando and down across the state. On the surface that would appear to be a positive for UCF fans, when in reality it could be a negative.
Right now USF is not all that relevant in college football. Its attendance in the stands and its results on the scoreboard have been slumping for the better part of past five seasons.
If UCF hopes to eventually, years from now, advance itself into a bigger conference, it will likely be tied to USF. As the only natural geographic rivalry in the American Athletic Conference, the schools need each other to be relevant. The conference needs both schools to be relevant.
In a way, while UCF ultimately earned a crucial victory on the field, it shows how far the "War on I-4" has to go. Interest in a noon game on ESPN2 can only be so much. Both schools need to be good enough in order to boost interest to perhaps secure a prime-time slot.
It's not realistic to expect both teams to be in the top 10, but if they can find a way to both be ranked, or even in the heart of the conference chase it would do wonders for a game that is needed by so many parties.
While it may not be popular — this rivalry, albeit young, has a ways to go.