5 Things to Know: UCF at Memphis

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This all sets up quite nicely:
--UCF (2-1 overall, 1-1 AAC) and Memphis (1-1, 0-1) have been the face of the American Athletic Conference in recent years—with the Knights earning spots in the New Year's Six bracket (Peach and Fiesta) in 2017 and 2018 and Memphis doing the same (Cotton) in 2019.
--Both teams are coming off both a loss and an open date, so both squads should be comparatively rested and healthy.
--Recent meetings between these programs (they did not play in 2019) have been some of the most entertaining matchups in the history of the AAC.
With that as a backdrop, here's what to watch Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC) when the Knights play their third road game in their first four outings:

  1. Offensive efficiency almost a given. Consider just the four games these two teams played in 2017 and 2018 (including the two AAC Championship games UCF won at the Bounce House). In those four games UCF averaged 47.2 points and 622 total yards—while Memphis averaged 34.7 points and 555.5 total yards. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton in three of those games (he did not play in the 2018 AAC Championship) completed 64 of 100 throws for 1,043 yards and nine TDs. When these teams meet, it's unlikely there are ticket-holders asking for refunds due to any lack of entertainment. Expect much of the same Saturday.
  2. This is a legitimate rivalry. While AAC officials have talked openly about needing more conference rivalries, there's little question about this one. While younger players like UCF sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel have never faced the Tigers, the Memphis players have been vocal this week about recalling some of their frustrations from those four most recent losses:--Five Memphis turnovers in the 2017 regular-season UCF win
    --A Memphis rally from a 14-point final-quarter deficit in the 2017 AAC Championship, only to see the Knights prevail in overtime despite 753 yards by the Tigers
    --A missed opportunity in the 2018 regular season when Memphis led by 13 at halftime in Memphis
    --Another missed opportunity in the 2018 AAC title game when Memphis led by 17 at half, only to see UCF outscore the Tigers 35-3 after intermission
  3. Penalties still need work. The Knights survived 19 penalties costing UCF 139 yards in the win at East Carolina. Then the Knights committed another 18 for 124 lost yards in falling to Tulsa. The open date would suggest Josh Heupel's team has had plenty of time to address whatever prompted those sorts of numbers. UCF needs to improve on its current ranking of 15.0 penalties per contest (tied for last in the country). Memphis averages 8.5 penalties per game.   
  4. Will the UCF offense prevail? The Knights come into Memphis leading the nation in total offense (582.3 yards per game) and ranking 10th in scoring (42.0 points) and second in passing (385.0 yards). Meanwhile, the Tigers stand last in the country in allowing 386.5 passing yards per contest (SMU threw for 474 and three scores versus Memphis). However, the Tigers limited SMU to 75 rushing yards and rank 16th nationally in rushing defense—while UCF managed only 125 net rushing yards in the defeat against Tulsa.
  5. Meaningless stat of the week. UCF has won 13 straight games in the series, with Memphis' lone victory coming in 1990. The last team to defeat the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl? It was UCF in 2018. And it's meaningful for Memphis first-year head coach Ryan Silverfield, who was a graduate assistant coach at UCF under head coach George O'Leary in 2006 and 2007 (UCF beat Memphis in both those seasons.).