UPDATE: This game has now been cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. We wish everyone in Florida the best during this historic storm.
Start Time: As a result of Hurricane Irma, the game’s been moved earlier to Friday, September 8 at 6:30 PM.
TV: ESPNU, not ESPNews as originally scheduled (this was a recent update - even UCF’s game notes are out of date on this).
Live Coverage: AM 740/FM 96.9 The Game, ucfknights.co/FBLiveStats17 for live stats.
Location: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL
Betting: Memphis is ever so-slightly the underdog at +3.
The Series: UCF has a dominating historical lead at 9-1. But the Tigers and the Knights haven’t played since 2013 (Justin Fuente’s second season as the Tiger’s head coach). UCF needed a pair of fumble recoveries for touchdowns in a nine second span to win that game, 24-17. The second one looked like this:
Memphis Outlook: Weather played a major role in the production for the Tigers last week. Rain and wind prevented Memphis from gaining much traction through the air, but the running game picked up the slack. Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor each surpassed the 100 yard mark on the ground in the absence of Doroland Dorceus. Under circumstances that made the offense predictable, this duo behind an impressive offensive line gave the Tigers another weapon on offense.
Quarterback Riley Ferguson wasn’t given many attempts to throw the ball, and produced just 97 yards because of that. This is not indicative of the passing game, and Ferguson will get an opportunity to prove that. His receivers are also dangerous, and we saw what Tony Pollard can do on special teams as well.
The defense was looking to find new starters last week, and will be starting all over at certain spots this week due to injuries. Multiple defensive players sustained injuries that will keep them out of this game or longer. Jackson Dillon will miss this game, and his status for the future is unknown for now. Jared Gentry and Darian Porter were also injured last week, and will miss the remainder of the season. On top of that, Jonathan Wilson must sit out the first half due to a targeting penalty he was assessed in the second half. This is a group that needs to improve, but took big hits to its depth and starting rotations.
Special teams may provide the Knights a scare, as Pollard is one of the best kick returners in the nation. His 99 yard kick return against the Warhawks earned him AAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
The forecast projects rain once again for the Tigers, but that might play into their favor. They already have experience playing in these conditions, and that might be the edge they need.
UCF Outlook: The Knights looked great last week demolishing a clearly-overmatched FIU team. Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton displayed significant development from last season, and had an impressive stat line despite how early the game was in hand (16/21, 360 yards passing, 4 TDs). The Panthers aren’t a good team, but the tremendous performance by the Knights’ offense did much to soothe worries about how much better the offense would be than 2016.
This looked scarier for the Knights before the season started, especially given the question marks surrounding the cornerback position. The emergence of Mike Hughes last week - only thirteen days into his tenure with the program - helps solidify a position group that seemed week. Hughes came in after Chris Johnson got burned on a seventy-five yard touchdown pass (it was, in fairness, a perfectly thrown ball), and proved a steady hand at a position that needed one. Unless weather plays a significant role for Memphis (again), expect the UCF secondary to be tested early and often.
The Knights will also benefit from the Tigers’ depleted defense. There’s a great opportunity here for UCF’s young and promising players at the skill positions.
Joey Broback: If the weather results in rain, I like Memphis. UCF struggled to run the ball in good conditions against FIU, and rainy conditions would force them to run more. My answer would change if the was nice, but I’m guessing it will be poor playing conditions once again. Memphis wins 21-17.
Chas Short: I see a UCF win here. I’ve become more secure in how the defense has reloaded and replaced so many of last year’s starters. Memphis’s tighter than expected game last week is probably a bit of an aberration, but I still expect the Knights to be a bit better. I’ll assume it to be a tight game with a lot of offense, and call it 38-35.