Game Notes: No. 22 UCF Seeks Fifth AAC Championship Saturday at No. 18 Tulane

Game Notes | Depth Chart

After winning the War On I-4 last Saturday in Tampa with a 46-39 victory against South Florida, the 22nd-ranked UCF football team clinched a spot in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game where it will meet No. 18 Tulane. Kickoff is set for Saturday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m. ET from Yulman Stadium in New Orleans and the game will air live on ABC.

The Knights are seeking their fifth AAC Championship this weekend, after winning the title in the first year of the conference in 2013, again in 2014, 2017 and 2018. UCF's four AAC Championships are the most of any school. 

Date: Saturday, Dec. 3
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Talents: Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, Tom Luginbill
Radio: FM 96.9/AM 740 The Game
Live Stats: click here

• Be UCF's 11th win over Tulane and sixth consecutive in the all-time series with the Green Wave
• Be UCF's third ranked win this season
• Give Gus Malzahn his fourth win over Tulane
• Give the Knights their fifth road win at Tulane and second of the season in New Orleans
• Be better than a loss


OverallUCF leads, 10-2
in New OrleansUCF leads, 4-2
in OrlandoUCF leads, 6-0
Last MeetingW, 38-31 (11/12/22)
Last Meeting in New OrleansW, 38-31 (11/12/22)
StreakUCF won 5

• UCF has compiled a 57-23 (.713) mark in regular-season conference games in 10 seasons as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

• Prior to the 2015 season, the conference champion was determined by the final regular-season standings so this will be UCF's third appearance in the AAC Championship Game. The Knights defeated Memphis, 62-55, in 2017 in Orlando and Memphis, 56-41, in 2018 also in Orlando at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

• UCF is listed at No. 22 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll released on Sunday and No. 23 in the American Football Coaches Association Poll (AFCA). The Knights were ranked No. 22 in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings released on Tuesday.

• UCF's last five games have all been decided by single digits, compiling a 4-1 record during that span. The five games have been decided by a total of 28 points and each game has been decided by a single possession.

• UCF's red zone defense continues to rank among the best in the country at No. 5 nationally, as opponents have scored on 68% of their trips to the red zone, converting on 34-of-50 attempts. The Knights have allowed 22 touchdowns in the red zone in 50 trips for opponents, a 44% rate. UCF has forced at least one red zone stop in nine of its 12 games this season, headlined by a season-high five red zone stops against Georgia Tech.

• The Knights' rushing attack ranks seventh nationally and leads the AAC, averaging 243.7 rushing yards per game. UCF has rushed for 200 or more yards in nine of its 12 games this season, headlined by a season-high 345 rushing yards in the win over South Florida last Saturday. The Knights' 31 rushing touchdowns this season lead the conference.

Tulane is in the midst of one of its best seasons in program history, recording 10 wins for the fourth time in Green Wave history. Under seventh-year head coach Willie Fritz, Tulane has engineered one of the nation's best turnarounds from a season ago, as the Green Wave were 2-10 last year and are now 10-2 and their seven conference wins are the most in program history. Tulane is coming off a 27-24 win at Cincinnati last week, as the Green Wave snapped the Bearcats' 32-game home winning streak.

The Green Wave own one of the nation's top defenses, as they have allowed just 19.8 points per game to rank 18th nationally and lead the AAC. Tulane has allowed the fewest passing yards per game of any team in the league with 182.2.

Saturday's game will be the 13th all-time meeting between the programs, as UCF leads the series 10-2 following the 38-31 victory earlier this season on Nov. 12. In that matchup, the Knights rushed for a then season-high 336 yards to hand Tulane their first and only conference loss of the season.

UCF has won the last five meetings against Tulane, including the last two matchups held in New Orleans. The Knights also won the 2019 game at Yulman Stadium, 34-31. UCF has won the last two games against the Green Wave on the road by one score and both of Tulane's wins in the all-time series have come in New Orleans.

In preseason camp, UCF talked often about its goal for the season...to win an American Athletic Conference Championship. Throughout the season, the goal has been reiterated to the team and this weekend the Knights have an opportunity to accomplish their goal.

UCF is looking for its fifth AAC Championship, after winning the title in the first year of the conference in 2013, again in 2014, 2017 and 2018. UCF's four AAC Championships are the most of any school. 

UCF has compiled a 57-23 (.713) mark in regular-season conference games in 10 seasons as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

Since the AAC Championship Game started in 2015, no team has ever earned a road win during the regular season against the team hosting the conference championship game and also defeat that same team for a second time on their home field to win the championship.

UCF defeated Tulane, 38-31, in New Orleans earlier this season and looks to earn its second win at Yulman Stadium this year to win the championship on Saturday. No team has ever accomplished that feat since the AAC began hosting the championship game in 2015.

UCF has been extremely effective on third downs this season, as the Knights lead the AAC and rank ninth nationally on third down conversion percentage at 50%. In contrast, Tulane leads the league in third down conversion percentage for defense with opponents only converting 35% of their attempts.

In the first matchup this season, UCF rushed for a then season-high 336 yards in the win against Tulane. That mark still stands as the most rushing yards the Green Wave have allowed in a game this season.

The Knights 38 points against Tulane also stand as the most the Green Wave have allowed this year.

With 11 rushing touchdowns this season, quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is one rushing touchdown shy of tying for the most by a quarterback in a single season in program history. Daunte Culpepper holds the record with 12 rushing touchdowns in a single season set in 1998.

Nine UCF football student-athletes have been named to the American Athletic All-Conference Teams, the league office announced on Wednesday. Five players were selected to the first team, while four players earned second-team honors.

The league's awards were determined by a vote of the conference's 11 head coaches. UCF has had at least seven all-conference selections in each of the past six years.

Offensive guard Lokahi Pauole, offensive tackle Ryan Swoboda, defensive linemen Ricky Barber and Tre'mon Morris-Brash and linebacker Jason Johnson earned first-team honors, while running back Isaiah Bowser, offensive guard Samuel Jackson, center Matthew Lee and wide receiver Ryan O'Keefe were named to the second team.

UCF has scored first in seven games this season and the Knights are a perfect 7-0 when scoring first.

UCF All-America long snapper Alex Ward has been named one of three finalists for the 2022 Patrick Mannelly Award, the organization announced on Monday night. Named after former NFL long snapper Patrick Mannelly, the award benefits Bernie's Book Bank, a non-profit that provides books for underserved communities in the Chicago, Illinois, area.
This will be the fourth year the award has been presented to the top FBS snapper. A fifth-year player from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Ward was named to the 2022 Mannelly Award Preseason Watch List and was also a finalist for the award last season.

With six catches in Saturday's game, senior wide receiver Ryan O'Keefe now sits in fifth place in the UCF career record books for receptions with 178. O'Keefe leads the team with 67 receptions this year to go along with 688 yards and five touchdowns.

For his career, the Austin, Texas, native has 178 catches for 1,965 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Player                                Total    Years
1.   David Rhodes            213    1991-94
2.   Mark Nonsant            198    1995-98
3.   Sean Beckton            196    1987-90
4.   Mike Sims-Walker      184    2003-06
5.   Ryan O'Keefe            178    2019-22
6.   J.J. Worton                168    2011-14
      Tre'Quan Smith         168    2015-17
8.   Siaha Burley             165    1997-98
9.   Charles Lee              162    1997-99
10. Rocky Ross               157    2006-09
     Marlon Williams          157    2017-20

UCF has rushed for 200 or more yards in nine of its 12 games this season and has accomplished the feat in 10 of its last 13 games dating back to the win over Florida in last year's bowl game.

The Knights are seventh nationally with 243.7 rushing yards per game and their 2,924 total yards rushing this season are also seventh nationally.

UCF Rushing Totals By Game
South Carolina State - 49 attempts, 297 yards
Louisville - 38 attempts, 208 yards
at Florida Atlantic - 56 attempts, 314 yards
Georgia Tech - 56 attempts, 284 yards
SMU - 40 attempts, 160 yards
Temple - 41 attempts, 322 yards
East Carolina - 32 attempts, 130 yards
#20 Cincinnati - 52 attempts, 258 yards
Memphis - 42 attempts, 204 yards
#17 Tulane - 54 attempts, 336 yards
Navy - 24 attempts, 84 yards
South Florida - 47 attempts, 345 yards

Fifth-year running back Isaiah Bowser heads into Saturday's game just two rushing touchdowns shy of tying Latavius Murray for the second most in a single season with 15. Bowser currently owns 13 to tie for the sixth most in a single season.

Each of UCF's last five games have been decided by seven or fewer points. The Knights started the streak with a four-point win against Cincinnati (25-21), followed by a seven-point road wins against Memphis (35-28) and Tulane (38-31), a three-point loss to Navy (17-14) before earning a seven-point road win at South Florida on Saturday.