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.
UCF WR Gabe Davis will turn pro
Next year’s UCF offense took a big hit Wednesday , but in the long run, the player leaving may help the program with more publicity at the next level.
Star wide receiver Gabriel Davis has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the upcoming NFL draft.
— Gabriel Davis (@DavisGB1) December 4, 2019
Davis is a true “Florida Boy” growing up in Sanford, and playingl ball at Seminole High school. He has been dominant in his time at UCF, has become one of the best wideouts in the state, arguably the best in his conference and one of the more underrated players in the country.
His numbers have improved each season. As a freshman, he had 27 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had 53 catches for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Then, this season Davis had 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Last season Davis finished on the American All-conference second team. This year, however, he finds himself on the first team and will hope the accolades don’t stop there.
Davis has all of the prototypical traits to be an “X” receiver in the NFL. He has the size at 6’3, but could work on his frame, getting up his listed weight at 212 pounds. In the passing league that is the NFL, teams are always looking for someone with big play ability. Davis is just that, averaging 16 yards a catch for his career.
He has the ability to take the top of a defense with his size and speed, which will intrigue scouts. One area of his game he will likely work on in the offseason will be running after the catch.
We all know his ability to kill you downfield, but scouts will also want to see what he can do catching a short pass. With an absolutely stacked class at the position, it will be interesting to see where Davis goes when the draft rolls around.
Already underrated being from an AAC school expect that to continue during draft time, but also expect him to rise to the occasion.
UCF blows out USF- is it the end for Charlie Strong?
It wasn’t an unexpected result, as UCF won for the third straight time in the rivalry matchup with USF, 34 – 7 Friday night in Orlando. The bigger question is: was it the end for third-year Bulls coach Charlie Strong?
First to the game. The Knights got what they needed in the first half, as freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel led them on three scoring drives to build a 21 – 0 lead from which USF never recovered. Gabriel threw two touchdown passes to his favorite target this season, receiver Gabe Davis (above), and the lead grew to 24 – 0 at the half.
The same pattern continued with USF’s offense as has been the case for much of this season. The Bulls mounted a little to nothing offensively throughout the game until finally breaking through, when running back Johnny Ford scored on a fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter. That trimmed the lead to 24 – 7.
However, Backup QB Darriel Mack led the next Knights answer going 82 yards in 8 plays with Mack carrying two yards for UCF’s final TD of the evening and all but, putting the game away.
The win was UCF’s ninth on the season and they await to find out what bowl game the American Conference will slot them in. This is the first time in three years that the Knights have not played in the championship game of the American Conference. They won the previous two defeating the Memphis Tigers both times and ended up playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game each time, as well.
That included their loss in the Fiesta Bowl to LSU a year ago, which stopped their 25 game win streak.
Back to the Bulls, the loss was their fourth straight to end the year and Strong’s team limped to the finish line at 4 – 8. When you combine this season with losing the remaining six games a year ago, that’s 14 losses in the last 18 games played for Strong’s teams. Friday night was also the fifth loss by 27 points or more for USF this season.
So now, we all wait to see if USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly, who was hired last year, will get rid of the former Texas and Louisville coach or give him one final shot to turn it around in 2020?
Strong is reportedly owed at least $5 million for the remaining two years on his five-year deal that he agreed to in December of 2016.
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