Pick UCF to Shine in Spotlight vs Memphis

UCF Knights player in action

Rainman M.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 3:00 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 3:00 PM UTC

No. 15 UCF (11-0) hosts No. 20 Memphis (10-1) Saturday at Noon ET. The Knights are favored by a touchdown to win the AAC Championship Game.

Memphis Tigers vs UCF Knights

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Free NCAAF Pick: UCF -7Best Line Offered: at Heritage

On September 30th, Memphis lost 40-13 at UCF. Since then, the Tigers have won 7 in a row. Of the 7, they won 5 by 20+ points and covered 6.

The key question for bettors is whether the UCF defeat was an anomaly for Memphis and bettors should therefore expect Memphis to score a lot and cover, or whether bettors should expect a repeat of their blowout loss.

Quarterback Riley Ferguson's poor performance cost Memphis on September 30th. Against UCF his completion % was 55 and he threw 3 interceptions. He had started the game 9/13 for 124 yards. However, in the second quarter, on UCF's goal line, he was strip-sacked. Thereafter, he became rattled. His accuracy and decision-making grew poor. Ferguson, in Memphis' pass-first offense, will need to keep his composure for four quarters in order to help Memphis cover.

The Ferguson-led Tigers disappoint against ranked competition away from home consistently, not just against UCF. In 2016, Ferguson's first year as Memphis' starter, the 8-win Tigers were blown out at No. 16 Ole Miss and lost at No. 24 Navy by 2 touchdowns. In the Ole Miss game, his worst game in 2016, Ferguson threw 3 picks. He was mediocre against Navy's 125th-ranked pass defense.

Since 2016, Memphis is 1-4 ATS as dogs away from home. The one cover came in a comeback against a Houston team who had shut out Ferguson in the first half, but then sleepwalked the second half, showing a lack of the killer instinct which UCF does possess. Backing Memphis means backing Ferguson, who is unreliable in big games away from home.

UCF's McKenzie Milton doesn't share Ferguson's issues with composure. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns in his team's home victory against rival South Florida. He leads a balanced offense with his 69% completion, 30:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 10 yards per pass attempt, 5 yards per carry, and 3300 yards passing.

Milton's top target is Tre'Quan Smith, who leads UCF with 48 receptions, 921 yards, and 19 yards per reception.

Adrian Killins is thriving in his first year as UCF's starting running back. He averages 7.1 yards per carry. He achieved 5.1 against a USF defense which ranks 11th in allowing 3.4 YPC. He achieved 12.8 against Memphis on September 30.

Memphis' run defense has repeatedly been porous. The Tigers rank 73rd in allowing 4.5 YPC. They allowed UCLA, which normally averages 3.9 YPC, to average 4.9. They allowed UCF, who averages 5.3 YPC, to average 7.1.

The Tigers' pass defense is also vulnerable. The other top-quality quarterback that they faced was UCLA's Josh Rosen, who amassed 463 yards and 4 touchdowns. Milton was 19/31 for 253 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. Overall, the Tigers rank 60th in opposing passer rating.

The Verdict

UCF can cover vs Memphis yet again: conference favorites of 10 or fewer points who won the previous match-up in the same season are 9-6 ATS (60%) historically in the conference championship rematch. Statistically speaking, the Knights rank 73rd in total defense, Memphis 112th. On paper, Memphis' offense is slightly more productive. The crucial difference is composure. Ferguson's struggles against ranked competition away from home will limit him against a UCF defense that ranks 3rd in takeaways. Conversely, UCF is typically more careful, ranking 34 spots ahead of Memphis in giveaways per game, and has proven itself in big games. UCF's defense can limit Memphis, while its balanced offense can score at will on our NCAAF Picks.

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