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Friday, September 27, 2013

Strange Bedfellows

One of the biggest games this weekend features the Central Florida Knights, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, there was a time, as a member of the Big East, that I believed in rooting for one's conference. This was in the days when we were the sixth of six power conferences. Every win bolstered a fragile national reputation, while every loss was a national "tolja so" from the Big Least crowd. In short. we all we got.

Ordinarily, a high profile matchup like UCF - now a member of the conference that's now called the American - vs. the SEC's South Carolina should send conference-backing into a tizzy. This is, after all, the opportunity to make a splash on the national stage, and it's pretty much at no cost. If UCF loses, it's because they were supposed to. If they win, it's huge. And yet, color me underwhelmed, even unsure of my rooting interest.

Here's where the difference lies. While my previous conference rooting was an act of survival, at this point, the die has been cast. UCF beating the Gamecocks won't change our lack of access after this year any more than Louisville's performance in their one and only year as a member of the American will. Rooting for UCF does me no earthly good, other than providing an interesting outcome on a fall Saturday.

But there's one other piece. We're supposed to be rivals. Long before we were conference mates, long before we had even met on the gridiron, it was ordained that USF and UCF are rivals. It makes logical sense. The two schools are of similar size, similar age, battle for the "best of the rest" after Florida's Big 3, and sit about an hour apart in central Florida's two principal cities. Maybe it's a corollary of the fact that I'm not from Florida and only lived there during my time at USF, but I don't feel it. Our only football meetings each resulted in a Bulls victory, including a 64-12 mollywhopping, and while I don't want to lose to them (spoiler alert: We're going to this year. Hope I'm wrong) it's more in the vein of not wanting your little brother to kick your ass. Now that we're conferencemates, a rivalry will no doubt continue to grow, but for the reasons stated so eloquently by the folks over at Voodoo Five, I can't get too up for it, at least not in games that don't involve my team. There is the minor storyline of our divergent paths that would be highlighted if they beat South Carolina while we get whooped by Miami (again, hope I'm wrong), but frankly, I can be upset about my team's plight in a vacuum.

So with the forces at play here, a lukewarm conference against a lukewarm rivalry? Let's keep it interesting. Go Knights.
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