There is no bigger game on South Carolina’s schedule this season than the UCF game, Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw said Tuesday.
“It’s the biggest game of our lives because it’s the next one on our schedule,” Shaw said.
For UCF’s players, it’s the biggest game of their lives for that and a lot of other reasons. The spotlight never has been brighter for the Knights as they prepare to host No. 12 South Carolina on Saturday at noon in Orlando, Fla. The game will be televised by ABC.
“A lot of them down there say this might be the biggest game they’ve ever had in the history of the school,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
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UCF is 3-0 for the first time since 1988. It is coming off a 34-31 road win against Penn State, and it is playing a national network television game for the first time in its history. Bright House Networks Stadium is sold out for the first time since 2011 and could top its largest crowd (48,453 in 2009 against Miami).
“They have a reason to be excited. Having us come down to their place is going to be a big game, and we are looking forward to it,” Shaw said. “It’s going to be fun. We are just trying to leave with a win. We are not overlooking this game at all.”
The Knights, who are 2-14 all-time against SEC schools, never have beaten a team ranked higher than No. 13 in the Associated Press poll and have beaten one ranked team in their history.
“I think it’s like any national game anybody is playing. You win the game, you get great exposure, national attention,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “People make judgments on your program and your fan base and a lot of different things (based on these types of games).”
If any Gamecocks were tempted to overlook this game, UCF’s win against Penn State two weeks ago solved that problem, South Carolina cornerback Jimmy Legree said.
“They proved themselves,” Legree said. “This is an opportunity for us to come into their town and shut them down.”
Spurrier has told his team all that’s on the line for the Knights, but he doesn’t believe he has to convince the Gamecocks to take UCF seriously, he said.
“Twenty, 30, 40 years ago around here, people would say, ‘We can’t overlook these guys.’ We don’t overlook anybody,” he said. “Wofford last year, we prepared for Wofford just like we prepared for Clemson. And Wofford still almost beat us because they played better than us until the fourth quarter last year. So we prepare for all of them the same, and we prepare for this one just like we did for Georgia, Tennessee, whoever down the list.”
The Knights are unranked but receiving votes in each of the two major polls and would almost certainly jump into the rankings with a win Saturday.
“If you’re going to have a good team, you’re going to have to go into those places and beat the other team,” Spurrier said. “We know what to expect. Whether or not we can do it, that’s why we play the games.”