The University of Central Florida are appearing in their third ever American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday afternoon. The still-undefeated Knights will play host to the Memphis Tigers, a team they handily defeated 40-13 earlier this season. Memphis comes in with a 10-1 record, with lone loss to UCF.
However, this is a far different Memphis team than the Knights faced earlier in the year. There’s a few things to watch for in this American Athletic Conference Championship.
High Powered Offense
UCF boasts the number one scoring offense in the nation scoring 48.3 points per game, including putting 49 on in-state rival USF last week. Led by American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year quarterback McKenzie Milton, the Knights have a high powered offensive attack that can move the ball downfield almost at will. They have also scored on their opening possession in 8 of their 11 games so far this season. In addition, UCF holds the longest streak in college football for scoring 30+ points per game at 11 straight games.
Memphis is no stranger to finding the end zone either though. After running the score up to 70 last week against East Carolina, the Tigers are right behind UCF with the second best scoring offense in college football, averaging 47.0 points per game. Since losing to UCF, Memphis has gone on to average nearly 530 yards of offense per game.
Both of these teams have played exceptional defense throughout this season. UCF has the best defense in the American as well as having the number two turnover margin in the nation with a +1.55. Memphis follows suit quite closely as they rank sixth in college football in the turnover margin category with a +1.09. Knowing that both defenses can take the ball away at any moment, it will be a battle to see who can keep possession of the ball and whether or not each team can score points off of any turnovers they create.
Special Teams is Key
As witnessed last week against USF, the Knights place a big piece of importance on special teams. Return man Mike Hughes has done an incredible job at providing this offense with excellent field position, as well as breaking open huge returns for touchdowns. UCF ranks 4th in the nation in kickoff returns as they average 28+ yards per return and 6th in punt returns with an average 15+ yards per return. Hughes also has had 1 punt return for a touchdown and two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season.
With all the distraction going on this week with head coach Scott Frost “reportedly” being interested in some of the open head coaching jobs, UCF will have to be poised and ready for today’s game. The Knights are projected to possibly make the “New Year’s Six” Peach Bowl if they win today against Memphis.
Knights-QB Milton did their part in UCF Friday night romp
it was a “points bonanza,” as advertised in Orlando Friday night, and in the end, UCF and it’s leader looked the part of conference champ and playoff contender. This as the Knights cruised to a 56-36 easy win over in state Florida Atlantic.
We wondered if Friday would restart the Heisman Trophy hopes of QB McKenzie Milton and he delivered on a National TV stage big time and early. Milton threw or ran for the Knights first six touchdowns of the game, including this one in the third quarter, where he juked half of the Owls on the field:
— Leger Douzable (@LegerDouzable) September 22, 2018
The junior from Hawaii finished with 387 yards from scrimmage and is definitely one of best dual threat QBs in America that will continue to garner attention.
FAU hung in the game for awhile, largely based on their star RB Devin Singletary. Singletary, the CUSA Offensive Player of the Year, ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns, as FAU was tied at halftime.
Still, the Knights who haven’t lost a game in 600 days, notched another victory in the nation’s longest win streak. They now have 16 straight games dating back to their December bowl loss in 2016.
And if you think UCF’s squad didn’t have some fun on a Friday night in front of over 44,000 at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, think again. After the 20 point win, it was time to dance:
We win. We dance 😁 pic.twitter.com/UfikBDzXQN
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) September 22, 2018
UCF will get a tougher test from Pitt out of the ACC next week, and then later in October, will play a huge American conference regular season road game at Memphis. The Tigers are arguably the best team in the West division and want to avenge having lost both meetings to UCF in 2017. The Knights won a thrilling double OT Championship Game in Orlando last December to lock in a bid to the Peach Bowl.
That’s where they famously stunned SEC powerhouse Auburn earlier this year on New Year’s day.
Back to the 2018 squad, coach Josh Heupel and staff had to deal with an unexpected bye week after Hurricane Florence cancelled their game at North Carolina last Saturday. Needless to say, they had UCF ready for this one.
And, that usually means Milton was ready to show college football he’s one of the players in the game.
He didn’t disappoint, again, Friday.
Will UCF QB Milton kick-start Heisman talk Friday night?
With the understanding that quarterbacks of powerhouse programs like Tua Tagovailoa, Trace McSorley, and Will Grier will be getting most of the national hype throughout the seaason, in our state we know that UCF QB McKenzie Milton deserves to be consider for the Heisman, too.
The junior signal-caller for the Knights has been a bit victimized by the early part of the season and the schedule. First, Milton did get off to a tremendous start in UCF’s opening win at UConn, where he fired five touchdown passes in basically three quarters during a blowout win.
However, the following week against South Carolina State he was not sharp with a couple of early interceptions and even though UCF won impressively, Milton’s numbers of 243 yards, one touchdown and three picks jumped off the page, as a negative.
He and the Knights were looking to ramp the offense back up last weekend in a game against a Power 5 program on the road in North Carolina. But, as you probably know by now, Hurricane Florence wiped out that game, and it will not be made up.
So, it seems as though Milton’s Heisman hype which began back in the summer, has stalled out.
Well, now comes a Friday night showdown with cross-state rival FAU and something very important: national television exposure on a weeknight. You see, for a lot of the media and in particular Heisman voters, Milton’s games are not going to trump ones for Alabama, Penn State Ohio State, and the other Blue Blood programs that they would rather watch. It’s harsh, but it’s true.
So, this is an opportunity for him to light it up against an Owls defense and then, be seen and remembered for it.
FAU was bombed by Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray in their opening blowout loss in Norman, OK, Labor Day weekend. And, coach Lane Kiffin has to be fearful that more of the same may be coming from the potent Knights offense.
Yes, being a shootout with FAU may be possible because they boast running back Devin “Motor” Singletary, who was the CUSA Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.
So, it may be to Milton’s benefit, if FAU can score some in this game keep it close, and Milton gets a chance to play four full quarters and do it well.
If he’s going to make up ground on Tagovailoa and McSorley in particular, who are on national television almost every game, then that’s what Milton is going to have to take advantage of opportunities present themselves.
Friday night at Spectrum Stadium is one such opportunity for Milton and his Knights teammates.
UCF freshman linebacker charged with sexual battery
The first off-field controversy of the UCF football season has happened with the arrest of freshman linebacker Demetrius Mayes on a sexual battery charge.
The alleged incident took place Saturday night in Mayes UCF campus apartment, where a female accuser says Mayes had inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact with her in his bedroom.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the 18 year old freshman from Miami met the accuser at an off-campus party. A UCF campus police report says she woke up undressed in Mayes bedroom, as he was attempting to have sex with her. The accuser went on to tell authorities that Mayes tried to prevent her from leaving the room.
UCF police chief Carl Metzger released a statement Wednesday:
“The UCF Police Department is committed to a thorough, professional investigation of all criminal incidents reported to us, and we’re dedicated to a culture of care that starts by believing the brave survivors who seek our assistance,” Metzger said. “This survivor’s well-being will continue to be a priority for our department and our university.”
As did UCF first-year head coach Josh Heupel:
“This has no place in our program,” Heupel said.”Demetrius Mayes is suspended from all UCF football activities indefinitely. We are focused on ensuring that we provide compassion and support for everyone outside our program that has been affected by this.”
In the report Mayes told police he met the accuser at an off-campus party and took the woman back to his apartment. Mayes says the victim initially consented to sex and that when she told him “I can’t do this,” he stopped, let her get dressed and unlocked the door.
At least one of Mayes roommates, who is an unidentified UCF football player, told the authorities that they tried to warn him he was making a big mistake taking the woman into his bedroom. Apparently, that roommate and others were banging on Mayes bedroom door trying to break up what was going on.
They told UCF police that the accuser exited the bedroom crying and upset.
Mayes was a star at Miami’s Northwestern High School a year ago, where they won the 6A state championship, but he had not played in the first two UCF games against Uconn and South Carolina State.
The Knights did not play last weekend, because their game with North Carolina was canceled by Hurricane Florence.
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