UCF is in for a battle

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

IMG_2678-1024x683UCF (11-0) at Memphis (10-1)
Line: Knights -7 / 82
TV: 11:00am, ABC
Venue: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL

Please, please, please … can this be half as good as the UCF vs.
USF War on I-4 battle last week?
If the 49-42 Knight victory over the Bulls wasn’t the best game
of the college football season so far, it wasn’t all that far off in
terms of thrills. And now, on a day set up to be the College Football
Playoff quarterfinals, this American Athletic Conference title game
becomes a tasty appetizer.
Last week was the play-in game for the Florida teams to get into
this play-in game. And now, barring something crazy from the Mountain
West, the winner of this will get the New Year’s Six bowl invite on
Sunday.
Now, as good as the USF-UCF game might have been, that’s how
lousy the first time around between these two was.
It was an ugly 40-13 UCF win over Memphis, with the Knights
owning the game in the first half, but finishing with 12 penalties.
The Tiger offense had as many turnovers – four – as third down
conversions.
But things would quickly change for Memphis.
It went on a run of seven straight wins, putting up 66 points or
more three times including hanging up two 70-burgers on the board.
The defense might not be anything amazing, but the offense has
made up for it with a special year from QB Riley Ferguson and one of
the nation’s best passing games.
Now they have to take UCF’s dream year and stomp all over it.
UCF could go from being one of two unbeaten teams left, to being
out of the New Year’s Six and without a coach in just a few hours.
Is Scott Frost really off to Nebraska? That’s for later. For
now, 12-0, a likely top ten finish, and a massive bowl game are what
matters.
But it’s going to take a shootout to get there over a team good
enough to get its revenge.
The most amazing part about the nation’s No.1 scoring offense is
it makes too many big plays, never plays it close to the vest, and is
so happy to take shots down the field, and yet doesn’t screw up.
No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin, UCF has only been in the
negative once on the year – going -2 against SMU – finishing up with
27 takeaways and just ten turnovers.
The Knights have given the ball aways two times or more just
nine times in the 11 games on the year.
It helps when your quarterback averages over ten yards per throw
and gives up just six picks.
McKenzie Milton has been brilliant, hitting 69% of his passes for
over 3,300 yards with 30 touchdowns. He hit Temple and USF for four
touchdown throws in each of the last two games for an offense that
always has an answer.
However …
The secondary is having issues.
The Memphis pass defense has been spotty all year – to be kind –
but UCF got hit hard by Quinton Flowers and USF last week, allowing
503 yards and four scores. The Knight secondary makes up for a
slew of the problems with picks, but it’ll also give up a whole bunch
of big plays.
Riley Ferguson had his moments in the first run against UCF, but
along with the 321 yards he threw three interceptions.
That was an aberration.
UCF might be great when it comes to turnover margin, but Memphis
isn’t far off. The Tigers have only been in the negative once
all year – the loss to UCF. The O has only given the ball away ten
times in the other ten games and just five times in the last seven.
The offense has tightened up.
Ferguson has been phenomenal, throwing for 3,500 yards and 32
scores with eight picks, and he’s got one of the hottest receivers in
the country to work with in Anthony Miller.
Held in check for just 37 yards against UCF in the first game, he
caught 35 passes in his next three outings, and now he’s up over 1,200
yards with 14 scores on 78 catches. He needs to go off.
The top two offenses in college football won’t disappoint.
This isn’t the same Memphis of September 30th.
The offense has been totally unstoppable, efficient, and
explosive – and now it’s about to make amends for the clunker the last
time it made the trip to Orlando.
Ferguson and company are built for a wild and crazy shootout. UCF will
bomb away on the lousy Tiger secondary, but the foot will have to stay
firmly on the gas.
Last week against USF wasn’t necessarily the high point for UCF,
but it was special. This week, it’ll be MU’s turn.
Ferguson will throw for 350 yards, and he won’t turn it over
three times this time around – and the offense will be far, far better
on third downs.
The Tigers just never had the ball in the first game. UCF isn’t a
time of possession team, either, but it was able to run for 350 yards.
96 came on one play. The Knights were able to maintain a steady
control throughout with big gash after big gash. That might
happen this time around, too, but the Memphis offense will keep pace.
Expect way over 1,000 yards of total offense, home run after home
run, and the most fun game of the day.
At least for Memphis.
Pick: Memphis 48, UCF 45

American Athletic Conference Championship Results
2013 UCF 8–0 12–1
2014 Memphis 7–1 10–3
Cincinnati 7–1 9–4
UCF 7–1 9–4
The 2013 and 2014 champions were determined by the team(s) with the
best conference record
2015 #20 Temple 13 #17Houston 24
2016 Temple 34 #20 Navy 10
2017 #12 UCF vs #16 Memphis

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