Date: Saturday, September 30th
Kickoff Time: 6:00pm CT
Location: Spectrum Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Line: UCF -4
Series Record: UCF leads 9-1
A huge win for the Knights last week. After adding another win for the AAC over a Power 5 opponent, UCF faces arguably it’s toughest conference opponent this season. Their defense will face the most explosive offense in the conference thus far, but it’s not a challenge they will back away from.
Coming into this season, the defense was a big question as the Knights had to replace multiple starters, including all four in the secondary. Even though this team is just two games into the season, the defense has eased those concerns so far. Reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaquem Griffin hasn’t been nearly as productive as last year, but that’s because the players around him are stepping up. Don’t mistake that as his game is regressing, because the Knights are better overall on defense. They will need that depth when they face a dynamic Tigers offense that can score in a flurry.
Offensively, we knew that quarterback McKenzie Milton would determine how far the offense would go. The sophomore had plenty of weapons at his disposal, but his development was crucial to the offensive success they would experience. In two games, Milton is already halfway to his touchdown pass total from last year, and his weapons appear more dangerous than anticipated. Receiver Tre’Quan Smith is fast, and teams would be wise to make sure they wrap him up before he can break loose. Dredrick Snelson and Jordan Akins are Milton’s two other favorite targets, and the running game features Adrian Killins and Jawon Hamilton. Oh, and Milton is a dual threat and can run as well. Memphis won’t be the only offense that’s dangerous at multiple positions.
Memphis has question on defense, but there aren’t many concerns on offense. The only real question offensively remains what is the status of running back Doroland Dorceus? And even that question doesn’t need to be answered immediately thanks to Patrick Taylor Jr. and Darrell Henderson. An average running game in 2016 has improved thanks to this duo, and they’ve made this offense even more dangerous.
Quarterback Riley Ferguson has proven he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he’s had a plethora of receivers to find downfield. Anthony Miller is once again proving why he’s one of the best receivers every time he steps on the field. Phil Mayhue and Tony Pollard have been solid, but the emergence of Joey Magnifico has been a nice surprise as well. Pollard has also continued to be one of the best kick returners in the nation, and UCF would be wise to kick away from him.
As mentioned earlier, the defense remains the biggest question mark, though they’ve dealt with plenty of adversity early on. Three players were lost for the year in the first game of the season, and several other players were hurt in the last two games as well. Health has been a big factor going against this defense, so it hasn’t just been that they’re struggling. Memphis proved it could win a shootout when they upset UCLA, but the offense can’t continue at this pace forever.
Could we be watching a preview of the AAC Championship game? Potentially, but obviously a lot has to happen between now and then. This will be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend, and it comes down to defenses. Both offense showed they are extremely dangerous, and the defenses should expect to be on the field a lot in this game.
My pick: UCF 30 Memphis 21
Who wins the Group of 5 Game of the Week?
This poll is closed
UCF Knights (2-0)
Memphis Tigers (3-0)