UCF is about to play Memphis for the fourth time in two seasons. The last two meetings have been ridiculously close. UCF won the 2017 AAC Championship game 65-62 in double overtime, and edged Memphis by a single point in this year’s regular season meeting.
Though there have been recent close calls, UCF owns the overall head-to-head record INSERT.
We caught up with Joe Broback of SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty Blog to catch up on the Knights’ increasingly familiar foe.
1. Memphis’s record home versus away has been very different. Three of the four games the Tigers have lost this year have been away. Is there a meaningful difference in the way the Tigers play on the road, or are the losses attributable to something else?
In Mike Norvell’s tenure, the Tigers have gone 8-7 on the road and 18-3 at home. Home field advantage has been good to Memphis, but they have struggled on the road. If you want to pin it on something, you could easily attribute it to youth on defense. Eight of Memphis’s leading contributors are sophomores. Throw in the fact that they have just two seniors that play a significant amount, and you can understand why they struggle with a little more adversity. The bright side is that they will return a ton of talent again next year, and should have a ton of experience and leadership.
2. Though a preseason West division favorite of many, it ends up that the Tigers’ path to the AAC Championship game was an unlikely one. Do Memphis fans feel lucky to have backed into the game, or feel like this was always what the result should have been?
They were disappointed that this is how things went. Preseason excitement was high, and the Tigers had a lot of potential heading into this year. The loss to Navy put a damper on the excitement, and the loss to Tulane killed any buzz left. Suddenly, they were in a position to return to a game they let slip away last year. Fans wanted to be in this position, but they’re just happy to be here after everything that happened.
3. When these teams last played, Darrell Henderson ran wild in the first half (171 yards), but the Knights defense clamped down on him (28 yards) in the second half, and also held the Tigers to zero second half points. In your view what was the difference, and which extreme do you think we’ll be more likely to see on Saturday?
It was the difference all year: the passing attack. Brady White has always been the X-Factor on the offense. Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. are forces running the ball, but they can’t do it all by themselves. White has been relatively inconsistent all year, but that’s not entirely his fault. He only threw for 79 yards in the second half against UCF (two completions went for 50 yards), but Memphis also became predictable in that half. Henderson and Taylor ran the ball on first down on seven of their eight drives in the second half, and White was put in tough third down situations. Henderson is an All-American caliber player, so I expect him to continue his dominant year.
4. What do you view as the key position match-up on Saturday?
TJ Carter against UCF’s wide receivers. Carter was dominant as a freshman, but has struggled as a sophomore. To be fair, the whole defense has struggled. Teams haven’t been afraid to try anything against the Memphis defense, and that includes testing a Second Team All-Conference player. We’ve seen what players like Gabriel Davis, Dredrick Snelson, and Tre Nixon can do, and Carter will have his hands full no matter which one he faces.
5. If Memphis wins, it will be because _____________________________.
Brady White is efficient. That, and Memphis learned from their mistakes in the first place. The Tigers were in the last two games against UCF, and poor decisions by their quarterback cost them. Mike Norvell has to find a way to make his quarterback more efficient for the Tigers to have a chance. Memphis cost themselves the game last time, and White’s efficiency would ensure that doesn’t happen again. UCF is going to score points on Memphis’ defense, but the Tigers offense is capable of keeping up.
BONUS QUESTION: Is “Joey Magnifico” the best name on Memphis’s roster?
Not even a question, and he’s been a factor as of late for Memphis. He’s a tight end that has great ball skills, and a name that’s great for puns. One way to help Brady White out with his efficiency is for his tight end to have a Magnifico game. Sorry, I had to.
You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeBroback and Underdog Dynasty @UnderdogDynasty. Which you really should do because both are great AAC football follows.