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Game Prediction: Memphis at UCF

It’s one day from UCF hosting Memphis, so it’s game prediction time.

ORLANDO - There’s one more day before kickoff. UCF needs to move past an ugly loss while Memphis just ended a three-game losing skid.

This will be a game of momentum, especially early in the contest, when the Knights must prove they can create big plays and get the Bounce House rocking. The Tigers will not take a back seat to any team with their offensive firepower, and look for them to attempt to throw knockout punches in the first quarter with their speed and explosiveness at wide receiver and running back.

Here are the four areas that UCF and Memphis fans should watch closely beyond the traditional categories like turnovers and big plays on special teams.

First Quarter Holds the Key

With a defense that’s been banged up and the availability of defensive tackle Ricky Barber in question, there’s a need for UCF to come out hot on offense. Play with the lead, be able to stay balanced with running and passing the football, and make big plays down the field when available.

The Memphis offense will not be shut down; too many weapons. UCF will need to score in an effort to keep Memphis on the sidelines and also resting its own defense.

If the Knights are not able to take a lead going into the second quarter, or at least gain the lead in the early second quarter, it could be difficult to chase down Memphis and their well-balanced offensive attack.

Watch out for running back Brandon Thomas of the Tigers. He’s scored three rushing touchdowns during the past two games. Memphis is known for its high-flying passing attack with quarterback Seth Henigan, but Thomas will make a defense pay as well. These two Memphis players represent two of the reasons why UCF must not only get on the scoreboard early, but continue to score throughout the game.

Explosive Plays

One could argue that this particular category holds the key for both teams. Memphis lived off big plays on both sides of the football so far in the 2021 season, especially with wide receiver Calvin Austin III already reaching the 50 reception plateau and gaining 837 yards, and eight touchdowns.

At 5’9”, 162 pounds, Austin can take a short crossing route and beat a defender to the edge and then he’s gone. He’s likely to break loose at some point during the game, but can the young UCF secondary contain Austin to under 75 yards? That would likely keep UCF in contention to win. When the Knights have the football, there are several different players that need to touch the football, but it’s the same goal regardless of the player.

UCF needs to create bigger plays in the passing game, even if that’s a screen that eventually helps set up a double move later in the game for a score or chunk-yardage play for a wide receiver such as Ryan O'Keefe. Even a couple of explosive plays of 30 or 40 yards can change field position, as well create far better scoring opportunities than what UCF saw the past two weeks.

Ryan O’Keefe

Ryan O'Keefe (#4), Wide Receiver, UCF

If the Knights continue to just throw short and run the football, there’s very little chance of defeating Memphis.

Rushing Attacks

Will either team be happy to pound the football between the tackles and slowly beat down the opposition? Memphis ranks No. 68 in the nation in rush defense by giving up 148.9 yards rushing per game, while UCF ranks No. 95 by allowing 176.7 yards per game.

The team that establishes the ground attack early should hold the advantage because both teams will want to run play-action passing, and neither team can quite frankly stop the run all that well when on defense.

UCF’s chances of playing well could hinge in large part on the health of running back Isaiah Bowser. The running back was not completely healthy versus Cincinnati this past Saturday, but perhaps he’s ready to take the next step and shoulder more of the burden against Memphis. He will also aid quarterback Mikey Keene with good pass protection if he's in the lineup.

With Bowser in the lineup, he can also help to bleed the clock and shorten the game against the potent Memphis attack.

With or without Bowser, the Knights need to also make sure that Johnny Richardson touches the football in space. He’s dynamic, and he could change the scoreboard more than one time versus Memphis.

Who’s Healthy?

As mentioned previously, Barber’s status and Bowser’s status are not yet known. For the Knights to win against an explosive Memphis team, one or both of them likely need to play and have big games.

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Injuries are a big part of college football, and this year the injury bug really hammered the Knights from early in the season onward.

Barber’s injury could actually cause serious issues in the second half for UCF without a lot of proven depth at defensive tackle. Keep an eye out for No. 5 and how he’s moving around, assuming Barber and his 6’2”, 290 pounds even walks onto the gridiron to play against Memphis.

Final Thoughts and Score Prediction

There are a number of areas that UCF seems to be climbing uphill due to injuries, as well as facing a good offensive team in Memphis. While the Knights will surprise some people with their offensive output against the Tigers, it’s just hard to imagine coming out on top after all the injuries in recent weeks.

Memphis 38 UCF 31

For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!

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