UCF (3-1) at Memphis (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 4:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,008) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UCF 1-1, Memphis 1-1. Away Record: UCF 2-0, Memphis 0-1. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Series Record: UCF leads, 8-1.
GAME NOTES: Former Conference USA foes will now battle as members of the American Athletic Conference when the UCF Knights face off with the Memphis Tigers at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Even though UCF isn't undefeated the Knights have put the rest of the conference on notice. The Knights nearly pulled off an upset of nationally ranked South Carolina on Saturday, but fell 28-25. The Knights had won three straight games prior to that contest, including convincing victories over Akron (38-7) and FIU (38-0) before a 34-31 win on the road over Penn State. This game is the first league game of the season for UCF.
This is also the conference opener for the Tigers, who were off this past weekend. In its most recent game, Memphis got its first win of the season with a 31-7 victory at home against Arkansas State. The Tigers are now 1-2 and 1-1 at home where they play four of their next five contests.
After Memphis won the very first meeting between these squads, UCF has won the last eight. The eight-game winning streak the Knights have against the Tigers is tied for the longest such streak against one opponent in program history.
Even though Teddy Bridgewater has been getting the attention, and deservedly so, Blake Bortles has quietly put together one of the best seasons by a quarterback in the AAC. Bortles has completed an incredible 70.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,174 yards and nine touchdowns, while being intercepted only three times.
Rannell Hall, J.J. Worton and Breshad Perriman have formed one of the better receiving trios in the conference as well. Hall leads the team in receptions (19), yards (354) and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (three) with Worton, who has 13 catches for 177 yards. Perriman has been a lethal big-play threat with 290 yards on just 11 receptions. Perriman's 26.4 yards per reception is tied for the third best mark in the country among receivers with at least 10 catches.
While Bortles and company have been humming along in the passing game. Storm Johnson has been producing well on the ground. Johnson has totaled 369 yards on 71 carries and has seven touchdowns already. He has scored in every game this season en route to leading the AAC in rushing touchdowns.
In all UCF ranks fourth in the AAC in total offense (450 ypg) while scoring a healthy 33.8 points per game. The Knights are outgaining their opponents by more than 100 yards per game while scoring more than twice as many points a week.
UCF is letting up just 342 yards of total offense and 16.5 points per game while allowing just 11 trips into the red zone.
Terrance Plummer leads the team both in total tackles (42) and tackles for loss (4.0) while Deion Green has a pair of sacks to lead a pass rush that could use some improvement.
Memphis can not lay claim to the same type of offensive success. The Tigers are only scoring 20 points per game, while ranking eighth in the conference in total offense (364 ypg).
The offense has not been able to rely on a sturdy passing game like the Knights. Paxton Lynch is efficient, completing 64.9 percent of his pass attempts, but is much more of a game-manager than game-changer. Lynch has throw for just 494 yards on the season and has two touchdowns to match a pair of interceptions.
The lack of passing production has meant the skill players on the outside have not had many opportunities to prove themselves. Tevin Jones and Joe Craig are tied for the team lead in receptions (eight) and yards (107), while tight end Alan Cross has brought in the Tigers' only two touchdowns through the air.
Memphis has shown strength in running the ball, ranking third in the league in rushing yards per game (199.3). Brandon Hayes (48 carries, 234 yards, TD) and Marquis Warford (22 carries, 228 yards, TD) have carried the Tigers on the ground and were especially effective in the win over Arkansas State as they each put up more than 100 yards rushing.
The Memphis defense has been much more consistent. The team is letting up just 17.3 points and 336.3 yards per game. The Tigers rank fourth in the league in both scoring and total defense, while leading in sacks (13.0).
Martin Ifedi paces the Tigers' impressive pass rush as he already has 5.5 sacks on the season, as well as a team-high 23 total tackles.
It is clear that the Tigers will be throwing everything they can at Bortles to slow down the Knights on offense. They may find some success with Ifedi lining up, but it won't be enough to overcome their offensive deficiencies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 26, Memphis 10
10/02 10:39:03 ET