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Sunshine Stakes: UCF plays a more important game than Florida (Really)

The biggest game for a Florida team this weekend doesn't involve any of the Big Three: it's UCF's chance to all but assure a Conference USA Championship Game berth.


Florida's got a chance to go undefeated at home in the SEC. And yet, with Miami's game on Thursday as done and dusted as the Gators' chances of getting to Atlanta on their own wind (Florida needs a Georgia loss to win the SEC East), Florida State getting a useful bye, and UCF taking on one of Conference USA's best, it's the plucky Knights who are playing Saturday's most important game involving a Florida team.

UCF vs. SMU, 7 p.m. ET Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

What's at stake? UCF has two more tough games on its regular season schedule: this one against SMU and one at Tulsa. If the Knights can get past the Mustangs, a 10-win season is in play, and they're almost guaranteed of a C-USA Championship Game berth.

If UCF wins: The Knights would be 7-2 overall, but 5-0 in conference play. And with West leader Tulsa looking way more imposing than UTEP and UAB (combined record: 3-14) and a win over East Carolina giving the Knights a one-game buffer, UCF would need to really falter to not win the East.

If UCF loses: UCF's got to win out to win the East, really: East Carolina ducks Tulsa and should win out, meaning that the Knights will need to keep pace to stay in front.

Florida vs. Missouri, noon ET Saturday (ESPN2)

What's at stake? Florida's SEC hopes rely on beating Missouri, a 16-point underdog, and hoping Georgia gags against Ole Miss and/or Auburn.

If Florida wins: The Gators' 8-1 record and spotless home record in the SEC doesn't salve too many wounds still open from last Saturday's Cocktail Party crash.

If Florida loses: The Gators are almost certainly out of the SEC East race (hey, Georgia could lose twice), and probably out of BCS contention, as the top slot for a non-champion SEC team would be either LSU's or South Carolina's to lose.

USF vs. UConn, 7:00 p.m. ET Saturday (ESPNU)

What's at stake? Very, very little. 2-6 USF needs to win out to go to a bowl game, and 3-5 UConn needs to start getting wins to avoid a losing season.

If USF wins: The Bulls' bowl dream won't vanish until next week, when they meet Miami.

If USF loses: At 2-7 with trips to Miami and Cincinnati left, Skip Holtz' seat is going to be scalding.

Florida Atlantic at Navy, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

What's at stake? After beating Troy 34-27 last week, FAU still has a faint hope of going 6-6. But playing at Annapolis is probably bad news.

If FAU wins: All the Owls will need to do to get to .500 is beat Western Kentucky at ... wherever Western Kentucky is, then come home and take care of business against FIU and Louisiana-Lafayette! The road is clear!

When FAU loses: The Owls will be assured of a losing season.

Florida International at South Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

What's at stake? South Alabama already has one win over an abysmal FBS team from Florida. Can the Jaguars make it two? Can the Golden Panthers avoid completely totaling Mario Cristobal's chances of ever getting a better job?

If FIU wins: It's still probably going 2-10, given that FAU hosts the Sunshine State Sun Belt Stupid-Off's on-field meeting, and Sun Belt leader Louisiana-Monroe looms after that.

When FIU loses: South Alabama will have two wins over FBS teams in its first season of FBS competition, and both will be over horrific Sunshine State Sun Belt Stupid-Off participants. Actually, I guess USA (really!) would have won the SSSBSO, huh?

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.