CSJ American Athletic Association Championship Game Preview — Memphis at UCF, How To Watch and Fearless Predictions

Memphis at UCF
When: Saturday, December 1, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
TV/Streaming: ABC / WatchESPN

Memphis Tigers (8-4, 5-3 AAC) 

AAC West Division Champions
Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Enrollment: 17,394
Sagarin Rating: 47 (8 in G5)

Season Recap: Memphis has won one conference crown at the FBS level, sharing the AAC title with UCF and Cincinnati in 2014, the year before the league began showcasing a championship game.

Memphis lived up to the preseason expectations and won the American Athletic Conference West Division for the second-consecutive season. The Tigers were selected as favorites for the second-straight season and the third time in four years. Memphis was also picked to win the division prior to the 2015 and 2017 seasons.  Memphis took a different route to this year’s West Division title. The Tigers recovered from a 1-3 start in league play, winning the final four regular-season games to clinch the championship. Last season, the Tigers
tied the program record with seven conference wins.

Memphis played UCF as close as possible when the two teams met in October, ultimately losing 31–30 on a late touchdown . The Tigers are riding a six-game win streak and will look to end UCF’s magical unbeaten run.

Best Win: at Houston (52-31)

Worst Loss: vs. Navy (22-21)

Other key outcomes: at Missouri (65-33 L), at Tulane (40-24 L)

Key Player: WR Damonte Coxie eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season, becoming just the third Tiger in program history to have a 1,000-yard receiving season – Isaac Bruce (1993) and Anthony Miller (2016, 2017). He is third in the American Athletic Conference with his 1,062 receiving yards and 88.5 receiving yards per game. Coxie’s 63 catches are seventh-most in a season at Memphis, the 1,062 yards rank third and his seven TD are 12th.  The Tigers will need to use both the running and passing game to be a key to the game.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB Darrell Henderson is the nation’s most explosive back, with an FBS-best 10 rushes of 40-plus yards and 13 total plays of 40-plus yards. He is second in the nation with 1,699 rushing yards, 8.58 yards per carry and 19 rushing TD. Henderson set the single-season AAC record with 1,699 rushing yards. He has eight 100-yard rushing games this season and 15 in his career. His 3,335 career rushing yards rank second in Memphis history, his 33 career rushing TD are third all-time at Memphis and his 42 total TD rank second in program history.

UCF Knights (11-0, 8-0 AAC) 

AAC East Division Champions
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Enrollment: 17,394
Sagarin Rating: 18 (1 in G5)

Season Recap: In four prior years of conference existence, UCF is already the AAC’s only two-time champion and will look to be the first team to repeat in the brief history of the conference.  The Knights are riding a current 24-game winning streak.

The closest game this year for the Knights was against their AAC Conference Championship opponent of Memphis, who gave UCF the closest win in the streak this year with a 31-30 victory and last year these two teams also met which the Tigers took the Knights to overtime in last year’s AAC title game.

The Knights have the nation’s 8th best scoring offense but lost AAC Offensive MVP QB McKenzie Milton to a terrible leg injury last week in its win over South Florida.

Best Win: vs. Pittsburgh 45-14

Worst Loss: None

Other key outcomes: vs. Cincinnati (38-13 W)

Key Player: QB Darriel Mack Jr. came in last week for the injuredMilton.  Mack’s strength is much more as a runner than as a passer. Although Mack is completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes for the season and was just 5-for-14 against South Florida last week, he has a big arm and proved last week that he was unafraid to take shots down the field.  Memphis will be likely stack against the run so he will have to prove that he can pass the ball.

Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB  Greg McCrae is fourth in all of the FBS in yards per carry with 9.0.  He has 895 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.  Look for the Knights to use the running game more with Milton lost and McCrae to be the leading ground gainer.

Fearless Forecast: With Memphis being a top rushing attack team and the Knights one weakness is its defense’s ability to stop the run so Memphis is likely to keep this again close just like the two team’s last two meetings.  The key stat likely be which team wins the turnover margin.  The Knights have taken the football away 25 times this season and given it away just nine times so statistically, UCF has this advantage.  Look for this to continue in this game and for UCF to sneak out a victory.  UCF 34, Memphis 31

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