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Memphis vs. UCF Game Preview

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It’s finally here. Buckle up.

NCAA Football: American Athletic Conference Championship-Memphis at Central Florida Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, October 13th

Kickoff Time: 2:30pm CT

Location: Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)

Watch: CBSSN

Line: UCF -4


Let’s go back to last year

To begin 2017, Memphis was a popular choice to contend for the AAC title. UCF was not. That quickly changed when the Knights dominated the regular season matchup 40-13. The Tigers rebounded from that loss to make the AAC Championship Game for a rematch, and gave the Knights all they could. Many thought Memphis didn’t stand a chance in that matchup, but the Tigers proved their worth. They even had UCF fans nervous about the outcome of the game before Riley Ferguson threw a game ending interception. You can bet the Tigers had this game circled as soon as the schedules came out.

Memphis Keys to the Game

  • Get after McKenzie Milton. Finding a way to rattle Milton’s cage is going to be top priority after what he did to the Tigers defense in last year’s contests. Milton averaged 373.5 yards and four touchdowns passing along with 78 yards rushing in the two games last year. While Memphis did find a way to pick him off four times, they need to find a way to make him less effective.
  • Give Darrell Henderson running room. Teams have tried to eliminate Henderson (and Patrick Taylor) from the Memphis offense. Henderson is the nation’s leading rusher, and his efficiency will have a big impact on the passing game. This is a challenge for the offensive line. UCF is going to try to force Brady White to beat them, but the Tigers need to find a way to break Henderson free. Memphis was outrushed by UCF 582-357 in the two games, and that can’t happen again this year.
  • Don’t get intimidated. By the speed, the talent, or the ranking. UCF is more than likely going to have big plays because they are good. Memphis can’t back away from that. If they can play more like they did in the AAC Championship Game, they have a good chance of winning. UCF is a good team, make no mistake, but they are a beatable team. Memphis has the talent to pull off the upset if they stay focused on what they’re doing.

UCF Keys to the Game

  • Go fast. This isn’t new to the Knights at all, but they need to stay true to who they are. This is the best team they’ve seen so far this season, and one that they know is dangerous. Using their speed was a huge weapon against Memphis last year, and it can be again in 2018. They are the more talented team, but they need to show it early and often.
  • Defense needs to play big. More like the first game than the conference championship. Sure, UCF has looked good so far on defense, but this will be the best offense they’ve faced all year. This is a defense that gave up a 574.5 yard average to the Tigers offense last year, and lost some stars. UCF may have the firepower offensively to win this game, but the defense needs to contribute.
  • McKenzie Milton must be a star. UCF has the talent to win, but Milton must be a stud for this to end well. Memphis won’t have an answer if Milton explodes on Saturday, and this game could be over quickly if he does. His ability to pick apart defenses as well as his ability to escape the pocket and run downfield will be a combination that Memphis struggles to defend. If the Tigers don’t have an answer, the Knights will be successful

Prediciton

There’s no doubt who the better team is, but UCF needs to prove that. This is a motivated Memphis team that hasn’t forgotten the feeling they had after the conference championship game, and the Knights need to realize that. If they don’t take the Tigers seriously, this will be a tight game.

UCF 56 Memphis 42