Week 7 Gridiron Spotlight: AAC powerhouse meets struggling Memphis
This week’s Gridiron Spotlight features two teams in a matchup that could have American Athletic Conference and national ranking implications. The UCF Knights travel to Memphis to square off with the Tigers this weekend.
While this game matches the undefeated No. 10 ranked team in the nation with a team that is ranked No. 5 out of six teams in the West division of the AAC, these two teams are virtually identical to each other in every significant statistical aspect.
The Tigers average nearly 550 yards per game, led by the nation’s leading rusher, junior running back Darrell Henderson.
In its six games this season, Memphis has seen Henderson rush for at least 150 yards on four occasions and eclipse 200 yards twice already this year. The 178 yards that Henderson has added as a receiving threat out of the backfield and the 111 kick return yards he has amassed have given him more than 1,200 all-purpose yards this season, good for most in the nation. He is the only player in the nation to account for more than 200 yards per game.
While the Tigers are well above average in moving the ball down the field, the Knights are statistically better. When the Knights take the field, the players turn to junior quarterback McKenzie Milton, who is a top 25 passer in terms of yardage, yards per attempt, touchdowns and quarterback rating.
Milton has led UCF to 18 straight victories and will be looking to use his arm to continue that streak against the Tigers.
Many times when two teams match up, one will have the clear advantage. We have seen that the offenses of these two squads are fairly equal, but the defenses are even more so. UCF allows only seven more yards per game than Memphis, but that does not underscore just how equal these defenses truly are.
Memphis allows 176.3 yards through the air each game while UCF gives up 174.6, less than a two-yard difference. When it comes to defending the rushing attack of opposing teams, UCF and Memphis are separated by less than 10 yards.
While Memphis has struggled to start this season, losing two of its first three conference games, winning the game against UCF would reestablish the Tigers in the AAC race, setting up a showdown with Houston in the final week of the season.
In the East, the Knights would be playing catch up to Cincinnati and South Florida with five weeks remaining in the season. A Memphis win would also shake up the race for a NY6 bowl berth that UCF currently leads.
A win by UCF would further cement them as the Group of 5 team to beat for a NY6 bowl and would keep the Knights in a prime position to represent the East division in the AAC Championship. The Knights would also essentially eliminate the Tigers from AAC contention.