The Memphis Tigers come off their open week to host the always-tough UCF Knights. The team is currently on a three-game losing streak which dates back to Week 6 when they blew a 19-point lead to the Houston Cougars. From that night forward, winning has not been kind to the Memphis Tigers. They would follow the Houston loss by blowing a 17-point to the East Carolina Pirates the following week. On the road against Tulane, Memphis was down by 35 points going into the half. The Tigers would provide a spark in the second half, but it was not enough as the Green Wave pulled away with a 38-28 victory.
A trip to the AAC title game is most likely out of the cards, but there’s still a lot for Memphis to play for. The Tigers are only two wins away from becoming bowl eligible for the ninth consecutive year. It won’t be easy, but a win over UCF could change the trajectory of a program currently on a three-game losing streak. Here are a few things to look out for in Saturday’s matchup against the Knights of UCF.
What to Watch For
The Health of John Rhys Plumlee
Knights QB John Rhys Plumlee could not return in last week’s game against Cincinnati after suffering a concussion. Backup QB Mikey Keene stepped and led the Knights to a 25-21 victory over the Bearcats. Keene does not provide Plumlee’s skillset as a dual-threat passer but is familiar with facing Memphis. He is the same QB that started last season’s 24-7 victory over the Tigers. UCF head coach Gus Malzhan stated Plumlee’s status is “day-by-day” regarding him starting against Memphis. Plumlee currently leads the Knights in passing (1,883) and rushing (532). Even though Malzhan did not indicate if Plumlee will start, Memphis must be prepared to face either QB.
The Ability to Hold a Large Lead
It has been a common occurrence during the Ryan Silverfield era at Memphis. The Tigers can not put away opponents after building a huge lead. These issues have affected the Tigers since last season and are showing up again in 2022. Memphis has blown a 19-point lead against Houston and repeated the same mistake against East Carolina after building a 17-point lead. If Memphis goes up by a large margin on UCF, they must put them away. UCF is the country’s fourth-ranked offense averaging 510.3 yards per game. With how the Tigers’ defense has performed lately, the Knights can erase a huge deficit in no time.
The Memphis Rush Defense Against the UCF Ground Game
One of their primary methods of attack for the UCF offense is their vaunted running game. The Knights currently average 244.4 yards per game. They will face a Memphis rush defense currently ranked 44th in the country against the run. If the Tigers can remove the running element from UCF, it could force them to become one-dimensional. The fewer moving parts that UCF can have going for them on Saturday would be a plus for Memphis.
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