Memphis Tigers (4-3) vs. UCF Knights (3-3)
Written By Admir Aljic
The Memphis Tigers snapped a three-game losing streak with a big 35-17 victory over Navy last Thursday, and now they look to extend their winning streak to two when they take on the UCF Knights on Friday. UCF lost to Cincinnati on Saturday, 56-21. That was their third loss in the last four games.
Memphis enters this contest as slight 1.5-point favorites. However, UCF has dominated this series, winning four of the last five meetings. But, Memphis did win the most recent clash, defeating the Knights in October 2020, 50-49.
First Half Surge Propels Cincinnati
UCF got a firsthand look at why No. 3 Cincinnati is so good, giving up 35 first-half points in a 56-21 loss. Cincinnati scored the first 35 points of the game. The Knights finally broke the streak when Mikey Keene completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Johnson. However, the Bearcats poured it on in the second half, scoring three more touchdowns. Keene finished with 141 yards passing.
UCF is 31st in the nation in scoring (34.2) and 39th in total yards per game (440.8). With quarterback Dillon Gabriel out with a broken collarbone, Keene has had to pick up the slack, and he has done a solid job, completing 62.1% of his passes for 568 yards and four touchdowns. He has thrown four interceptions in just 95 attempts. His leading receiver has been Ryan O’Keefe, who has 35 catches for 375 yards and a score. Brandon Johnson has 21 catches for 256 yards, but six of those receptions have gone for TDs.
There is not much of a rushing attack here. Johnny Richardson leads the team in rushing with 317 yards on 52 carries, an outstanding 6.1 yards per carry average. Isaiah Bowser has rushed for 295 yards on 64 carries, and has scored six times.
The defense is allowing 32.2 points per game, 107th in the country. This is a group that is simply not getting to the quarterback, as they have just seven sacks in six games. Josh Celiscar has three of those sacks, meaning he is getting no help in pressuring the quarterback. The Knights have four interceptions and five fumble recoveries. Bryson Armstrong is the team leader in tackles with 53.
Tigers Devour Navy Early
Memphis scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters on their way to a 35-17 victory over Navy. This game was tied at seven but a 69-yard run by Calvin Austin gave the Tigers the lead for good. Quarterback Seth Henigan had a big 74-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Lewis and Brandon Thomas and Marquavius Weaver each added short touchdown runs.
Memphis is 23rd in the nation in scoring (35.9) and is averaging 485.7 yards per game, 10th best in the nation. It has been a multifaceted offense that has made the Tigers very difficult to handle. Henigan has thrown for 2153 yards and 16 touchdowns, completing 60.8% of his passes with just four interceptions. His primary target has been Austin, who already has 50 catches for 857 yards and eight scores. Sean Dykes is second with 27 catches for 441 yards and five scores. Javon Ivory is the only other player with as many as eight catches (17).
The running game is led by Thomas, who has 642 yards on 107 carries. That is a gaudy 6.0 yards per carry average. He has scored seven times. Rodrigues Clark is second with 42 carries for 283 yards.
The defense is allowing 30.4 points per game, 96th overall. Memphis has recorded 11.5 sacks but has just four turnovers, including just one interception. Maurice White is the only player with as many as two sacks. JJ Russell is the team leader in tackles was 77.
The Knights started this week as the favorite, but the line shifted to favor the Tigers. Three weeks ago, UCF would’ve been a good pick, but Keene has not proven himself to be a dependable QB. He was lit up by Cincinnati, which is not surprising, but the freshman has yet to pass for more than 200 yards in a game this season. He had 194 against East Carolina but still threw an interception in that game. In the three contests where he has seen considerable action, he has thrown at least one pick in each of those contests, so Memphis is likely to get another possession out of this game.
Added to the fact is that the Knights simply do not get after the quarterback. You can expect that Henigan is going to have a lot of time to find his big-play receivers, and that is not good news for this UCF defense. I not only look for Memphis to win but win big.
Prediction: Memphis Tigers -1.5 (-112)
Written By Admir Aljic , “The Admiral”
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