AAC Championship Game
No. 14 Central Florida (11-0) vs. No. 20 Memphis (10-1)
Dec. 2, Noon ET, Orlando
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE:
Central Florida: Without a loss. By now you know that Central Florida is one of just two undefeated teams entering the championship weekend. And you know that UCF is at No. 14 in the College Football Playoff rankings because it’s in the American Athletic Conference.
The Knights have beaten Memphis already this season and took down South Florida a week ago. USF was the top-ranked team from the AAC entering the season and its other loss was to Houston. So it’s fair to say that UCF is being undervalued.
But let’s be real here, if UCF was in the top 10, it still wouldn’t be playing for a spot in the playoff. That’s the harsh truth of being a team outside a Power Five conference.
Memphis: If Memphis had beaten UCF, we’d be talking about the Tigers as a team being undervalued. And heck, maybe Memphis is still underrated.
The Tigers’ only loss was a 40-13 drubbing at the hands of the Knights. Memphis boasts a win over UCLA — a UCLA team two weeks removed from beating Texas A&M — and has scored 40 or more points in six of its last seven games. And in two of those games, Memphis hit the 70-point mark.
The stakes are the same for the Tigers as they are for the Knights. Win and a New Year’s Six bowl berth is theirs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB McKenzie Milton, UCF: The Knights’ win over South Florida last Friday was the highest-rated game in AAC history. For many, it was their first chance to see Milton play.
The QB has thrown for 3,301 yards while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. Oh, and he’s thrown for 30 touchdowns to just six interceptions while averaging over 10 yards per pass attempt. For good measure, he’s rushed for six touchdowns too.
Milton is one of the best all-around quarterbacks in college football, and his battle with Memphis’ Riley Ferguson will be fun to watch.
RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis: Henderson has rushed for 1,045 yards and eight touchdowns. That looks pretty good, right? What if we told you that Henderson has done all of that on just 115 carries?
Yep, Henderson is averaging 9.4 yards a pop this season. That’s Bryce-Love level numbers. And those numbers make second-leading rusher Patrick Taylor Jr.’s numbers look quite pedestrian by example. Taylor has 121 carries for 691 yards and 12 touchdowns. That’s pretty dang good too.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Because these teams could combine for 100 points. The over/under for the game is set at 81, which seems a bit low. Both teams have offenses that should overpower the others’ defenses. If you want to watch a four-hour football game with a lot of points, the AAC may actually be a better bet than the Big 12 early on Saturday.
Oh, it may also be the last game for Scott Frost as UCF’s coach. Frost, a Nebraska alum, is considered the strongest candidate to be the next coach of the Huskers.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: As we said earlier, it’s New Year’s Six or bust for both teams. Whoever wins this game will get a chance to play a Power Five opponent in a big bowl game and get the chance to prove that commissioner Mike Aresco’s “Power Six” is more than just a slogan.
Nick Bromberg: UCF 51, Memphis 47
Sam Cooper: UCF 42, Memphis 38
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