Written by Brian Pohl
Orlando, FL- The end of the regular season brings upon conference championship week in college football, which for the American Athletic Conference means a ranked matchup between the 20th ranked Memphis Tigers, and the undefeated 14th ranked UCF Knights. The game will be a rematch from earlier in the season that saw the Knights route the Tigers 40-13, a game in which Memphis turned the ball over four times, and UCF went for over 600-yards of total offense.

A lot has changed for both teams since that first meeting from week 5 of the college football season. UCF head coach Scott Frost spoke about the changes for both teams saying, “We’ve evolved. They’ve evolved,” he said. “They had a lot of injuries on defense early on in the year, and they’ve got some young guys who have improved as the year’s gone along. Schematically, they have some different tendencies on defense. Offensively they’re playing lights out. They’re an improved team from when we saw them the first time.”

The most significant evolution for Memphis may just be their offense. Despite scoring only 13 points when they first squared off against UCF, the Tigers have bounced back in a big way, now averaging 47 points per game on the season, good enough for second in the nation. The only team ranked in front of them? The UCF Knights.

The Tigers are led offensively by quarterback Riley Ferguson, whose 32 touchdown passes to eight interceptions are a large part of how the offense has been so successful. Flanking Ferguson is talented running back Darrell Henderson, who has eclipsed 1000-yards rushing on the season to go along with eight touchdowns. Wide receiver Anthony Miller, who holds every major receiving record for the Tigers, has surpassed 1200-yards receiving on the season with 12 touchdowns and will look to continue his great season. After scoring 70-points last week against ECU, Memphis believes the evolution of the offense will give the UCF defense a different look from earlier in the season.

In just the second year under Frost, the UCF offense has been dominant, averaging 48.3 points per game. Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton has been the key to their success and is having a breakthrough season throwing 30 touchdowns to just six interceptions on the year. Milton needs only two touchdown passes to break the Knight’s school record for passing touchdowns on the season, and looks poised to do so with two games left in their season. One of the biggest reasons for Milton’s success has been his consistency. Ranking second in the nation with a pass efficiency of 182.9, eighth in passing yards/completion with 14.94 ypc, and tenth in passing yards/game with 300.1 ypg, the Knights will need Milton to continue his strong play in what will likely be a shootout on Saturday.

Milton’s favorite receiver to target has by-far been wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, who has caught 48 passes for 921-yards and 11 touchdowns. Averaging 83.7 yards per game, Smith has a good shot at passing 1000-yards receiving on the season. Ten different players have scored rushing touchdowns for UCF this season, but they have been led by running back Adrian Killins Jr. who has rushed for 732-yards on the season and nine touchdowns. The offense will need to bring their A-game if they are to cap off their historic season.

After their thrilling 49-42 victory over USF in the “War on I-4” last week, the Knights completed the first undefeated regular season in school history. Coach Frost was asked how his team would bounce back after an emotional win, “My first question for them this morning was ‘you got enough juice for one more?'” he said about his comments to the team at Monday’s practice. “There was an enthusiastic response. Hopefully, they got some of the celebration out of them the last couple days. I told them that we’re done patting ourselves on the back over that game. It’s time to go back to work.” Frost and the Knight’s will look to remain undefeated heading into bowl season for the first time in school history if they are victorious over the Tigers for the second time this season.

The UCF Knights and Memphis Tigers will kick-off Saturday at noon from Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Florida for the AAC Championship.

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