Date: Saturday, December 2nd
Kickoff: 11:00am CT
Location: Spectrum Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Line: UCF -7
Series Record: UCF leads 10-1
You want a battle tested team? You got one in Memphis. With injuries damaging the defensive depth, it was no surprise that the Tigers lost to UCF earlier in the season. The margin in which they lost is what was surprising, and it could have been easy for this team to cave and become negative about their season. But they didn’t. Instead, this team rattled off seven straight wins, and the Tigers are playing some of the best football in the conference at the right time.
Since the loss to the Knights, the offense has taken off, averaging 53.6 points per game. Riley Ferguson continues to tear up defensive secondaries by finding weapons like Anthony Miller, Tony Pollard, Phil Mayhue, and many more. UCF showed signs of weakness against the pass last week, so that could be a good sign for this group on Saturday.
Memphis is very much in play for the New Year’s Six bowl because of their resiliency. Had the Tigers lost one of the previous seven games, a win might not get them the nod. All of the attention has been placed on UCF for that bid, meaning all of the pressure is on the Knights. The Tigers simply have nothing to lose. They’re not favored, not expected to win this game, but they have more going for them than you might realize.
The loss in September was bad, we can all agree on that, but it provided valuable experience for a team looking for revenge. It’s always tough to beat a team twice, and it’s going to be tough to force Ferguson into a similar performance again. Playing at UCF won’t provide anything that Memphis hasn’t seen before since the September game was at UCF as well. Lastly, the Tigers have less distractions going against them. While Memphis isn’t sure about the status of their coach, UCF is dealing with their own coach leaving. Scott Frost continues to be tied to Nebraska, and that could take a toll on this team. Another extremely important factor to note is UCF is coming off an emotional win against USF. If they can’t regroup to focus on this game, their toughest yet, an upset is certainly possible. This is the biggest game of the season, and I think it goes differently this time.
Prediction: Memphis 44 UCF 42
In what should be the most exciting time to be a UCF fan in history, emotions are running high throughout Orlando. The Knights are coming off of a rivalry victory over South Florida in what may have been the college football game of the decade. Sitting at 11-0 and one win away from playing in a New Year’s Six bowl, the focus around campus has shifted from UCF’s success on the field to anxiousness about the potential departure of head coach Scott Frost. The only thing these players can do is take the field against Memphis and play their hearts out to bring home the trophy, knowing it may be their last game with Frost at the helm.
When UCF and Memphis met earlier in the season, the game was dominated by the Knights. UCF picked off Riley Ferguson 3 times and essentially held the second-highest scoring offense in the nation to 7 points (Memphis scored a touchdown as time expired in the 4th quarter making it 40-13). That would serve as Memphis’ only loss of the season as they went on to win their next 7 games, averaging 50+ points per.
UCF’s secondary got absolutely torched by South Florida last week. Despite that terrible performance, I don’t think that’s any indicator on how this championship game will play out. The Knights and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander had to plan for a quarterback that makes big plays with his feet in Quinton Flowers. Ferguson for the Tigers is more of a true pocket passer which will allow the Knights to shift focus to the passing game.
My biggest fear is that the off-field distractions are going to hinder the Knights’ performance this Saturday. If everyone is locked in, I see this being another thriller at Spectrum Stadium. The two highest scoring offenses in the nation will matchup in a top-20 battle for the American Athletic Conference Championship. This has huge game written all over it.
Score Prediction: 45-31 UCF
Who wins the AAC Championship Game?
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