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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,000) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: CSS. Home Record: UCF 3-1, Memphis 1-2. Away Record: UCF 1-1, Memphis 0-3. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 2-0, Memphis 1-1. Series Record: UCF leads, 7-1.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights try to protect their perfect league record as they visit Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium for a Conference USA duel with the Memphis Tigers.
UCF is embarking on its first road game in over a month after surviving a double-overtime thriller last week versus the winless Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Although coach George O'Leary and his squad escaped its clash with USM with a 2-0 C-USA record, they clearly need to make adjustments going forward. UCF is in an interesting spot as all its success may go to waste if its pending appeal to the NCAA's ruling that it is postseason ineligible is sustained before the season ends.
Memphis managed to pick up just one victory in the first half of its season under first-year head coach Justin Fuente. After defeating Rice on Oct. 6, the Tigers took a huge step backwards as they were demolished, 41-7, by East Carolina in Greenville last week. Memphis will be celebrating its homecoming this weekend as it tries to fend off its difficult opponent.
The Knights are 7-1 all-time and 7-0 under O'Leary versus Memphis. The Tigers were held to 134 yards of total offense in last season's meeting, which UCF won 41-0.
The Knights have been a stellar offensive team in recent weeks, averaging 39 ppg in their past two outings. Blake Bortles has shown development and is gaining composure each week in his first season as the full-time starter. Bortles, who threw for a season-high 272 yards last week, has 10 touchdowns to five interceptions through six games. The sophomore has not thrown an interception since Sept. 15.
UCF has a trio of effective wideouts in J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall, and Quincy McDuffie. Worton led the way last week with eight receptions for 117 yards.
The Knights' now have two certified weapons out of the backfield as Storm Johnson and Latavius Murray are both fully healthy for the first time since the opener. Johnson is the sixth leading rusher in the conference with 427 yards and four touchdowns on 92 carries. Murray came up in the clutch last week by managing to rush into the end zone in both overtime sessions to secure the win.
While O'Leary's offense is serviceable, his defense is even more impressive. The Knights lead the C-USA in total defense and scoring defense with averages of 351.5 allowed yards and 22.8 allowed points per contest. Ohio State is the only team to score 30 or more points in regulation versus the Knights this season.
Memphis has struggled this season due to a consistent lack of offensive firepower. The Tigers are the only other team in the C-USA besides Tulane averaging less than 300 yards of total offense and 20 points per game.
Although the Tigers' margin of loss was their widest of the season last week, QB Jacob Karam ended a two-game streak of being held under 100 yards passing. The junior signal caller completed 14-of-23 passes for 153 yards in the contest. Through six games, Karam has completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 940 yards and six touchdowns with just a single interception.
Marcus Rucker and Keiwone Malone are the only consistent weapons Memphis has on offense. Rucker caught seven passes for 88 yards last week to increase his season totals to 27 receptions and 351 yards. Malone has a team-best 29 receptions for 301 yards and two scores.
Memphis lost its top running back, Jerrell Rhodes, at the end of September when he left the team for personal reasons. Since Rhodes's departure, no Tiger has been able to eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game.
The Tigers' only victory this season came on the sole occasion its defensive unit had a strong showing. In its four losses to FBS programs, Memphis gave up an average of 40 ppg.
Although Memphis will have the home crowd on its side, it is not on the same level as the visitors. The Knights are the most complete team in the conference this season. Last week's struggle against USM will soon be forgotten as UCF handles the Tigers on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 45, Memphis 17
10/17 10:47:11 ET
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