AAC Championship Preview: No. 8 UCF vs. Memphis
For the second straight season, No. 8 UCF and Memphis will meet in the AAC Championship game. If UCF wins, the Knights will head to a New Year’s Six bowl game. If Memphis wins, the Knights will have their 24-game winning streak snapped.
The past two meetings produced fireworks, as UCF took the 2017 AAC Championship game 62-55 in double overtime after Tre Neal sealed the win with an interception from Riley Ferguson. The 2018 meeting saw Memphis leading 30-17 at halftime and the Knights stormed back to win 31-30.
Memphis enters the championship game with a record of 8-4, and UCF enters with an unblemished record of 11-0.
On the Memphis side, quarterback Brady White has completed 214 passes on 336 attempts (63.7 percent) for 2947 yards, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions and currently holds a QBR of 157.8.
Aside from an aerial assault courtesy of White, running back Darrell Henderson has rushed for 1699 yards on 198 carries. The highly touted junior averages 8.6 yards per touch and has scored 19 touchdowns including a 78-yard scamper. Henderson also has 286 yards receiving and three touchdowns on just 17 catches as well.
Sophomore wide receiver Damonte Coxie has filled Anthony Miller’s shoes nicely, as the sophomore receiver has put up some serious numbers in 2018. Coxie has corralled 63 passes for 1,062 yards and has found the end zone seven times.
Tight End Joey Magnifico has also added five touchdowns to complement 260 yards receiving on just 17 catches.
After the McKenzie Milton suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury against USF, UCF will now have to focus on having a new man under center.
Freshman Darriel Mack Jr has completed 21 passes on 43 attempts (48.8 percent) for 174 yards, but hasn’t thrown a touchdown or interception in very limited game action.
Once Milton went down with the injury, the Knights were able to rack up 391 rushing yards against USF.
Greg McGowan and Adrian Killins Jr are the two leading rushers for Josh Heupel’s team. McGowan has rushed for 895 yards on 99 carries and Killins has racked up 638 yards on 133 touches. The duo has combined for 12 touchdowns and McGowan has found pay dirt seven times in 2018 as opposed to Killins reaching the end zone five times.
The UCF receivers have produced 2879 yards and 26 touchdowns on 193 receptions with an average of 14.9 yards per reception.
Gabriel Davis, Dedrick Snelson and Tre Nixon have combined for 1729 of those yards and 15 touchdowns with Snelson and Nixon tied for second in receptions with 37.
Memphis and UCF have the fifth and sixth ranked rushing offenses in the country, averaging 275.9 yards per game and 269.8 yards per game, respectively.
In addition to having the fifth and sixth rushing offenses in the country, the two teams are also ranked fifth and sixth when it comes to total offense.
The Knights are ranked fifth with 531.5 yards per game, and the Tigers placed sixth with 530.3 yards per game.
Defensively, both teams are ranked in the middle of the pack out of the 130 FBS teams.
The Tigers are ranked 66th nationally, surrendering an average of 397.3 yards per game, and the Knights currently sit at 77th overall, giving up about 409 yards per contest.
Overall, this game has the making of becoming a shootout just like the 62-55 offensive explosion in 2017. However, it also has the potential to be somewhat low scoring due to a large source of offense for UCF not playing.
With the injury to McKenzie Milton, look for UCF to pound the rock at will. The Memphis rush defense will be tested from the get-go and Brady White will put up some solid numbers as well.
There’s a great chance that this game will be the best group of five championship game on championship Saturday. Buckle up!
Prediction: UCF 31, Memphis 27
Christopher Hess is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.