Week Five Preview: UCF-Memphis set to do battle in American opener

Brandon Helwig, Publisher
UCF Sports


The stage for UCF-Memphis is much bigger now.

The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 9, an early second-week conference game between a division favorite and one aspiring to be.

It was called off at the last minute - thanks to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma - and American commissioner Mike Aresco worked feverishly in the days to follow to rearrange league schedules so all postponed conference games could be played. UCF cancelled their home game vs. FCS Maine, while Memphis no longer is playing Georgia State on the road this season.

Both Memphis (3-0) and UCF (2-0) are receiving votes in the AP and coaches polls with each boasting an impressive non-conference win: The Tigers upset then-No. 25 UCLA on Sept. 16, while the Knights are coming off a 38-10 win at Maryland. The winner will have an argument to be recognized along with No. 18 USF as conference championship frontrunners.

ESPN is giving the game primetime treatment, placing it on ESPN2 with a 7 p.m. kickoff from Spectrum Stadium.

"I'm ready to see the place packed," UCF coach Scott Frost said. "I think our team has done enough to earn a full stadium. It's going to be a great game. I think this is going to be one of the marquee games in the conference this year. Memphis is a really good team. They have a really good win under their belt. I think we're getting better every week and we have a really good win under our belt. This should be a great football game. They've got a lot of great football players. We've got some really good football players. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to watch. Our kids are looking forward to it. I hope we have a packed house."

Here's a look at games involving the American Athletic Conference.


No. 18 USF (4-0, 1-0 AAC) at East Carolina (1-3, 1-0 AAC)

12 noon, CBS Sports Network

Buzz: Can ECU challenge USF? Doubtful, but at least the Pirates got a win on Sunday at UConn, holding on 41-38 as the Huskies missed a last-second field goal. The Bulls enter the game riding a nine-game winning streak having smoked Temple 43-7 last Thursday. USF has scored 30 points in 21 consecutive games, which is two games from setting the NCAA record currently held by Oregon (2011-12).

Line: USF by 23

Head-to-Head Pick: USF

Houston (2-1) at Temple (2-2, 0-1 AAC)

12 noon, ESPNU

Buzz: It's the league opener for Houston, whose 16-game home winning streak ended last week in a 27-24 loss to Texas Tech, a lower-scoring game than anticipated. Houston's offense is performing below expectations and there is a bit of QB controversy brewing as well with Kyle Allen being replaced in the second half last week by Kyle Postma. Allen has committed six turnovers in three games, while Postma did rally UH with two late scores against Texas Tech. Offensive line and receiver play has also struggled. Temple, under first-year coach Geoff Collins, looks like a long ways away from the teams that won the East Division in 2015 and 2016, ranking at or near the bottom in offensive categories.

Line: Houston by 13.5

Head-to-Head Pick: Houston

Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC) at Tulsa (1-3)

3:30 p.m., ESPNU

Buzz: Navy remains undefeated after last week's 42-32 home win vs. Cincinnati and boasts an impressive 16-2 AAC record since joining in 2015. They rank second nationally in rushing yards per game with 393.0. Tulsa is 1-3 but that record could have been flipped as they came out on the short end in games vs. Toledo (54-51 loss) and last week vs. New Mexico (16-13 loss), games that were decided against their favor on last-second field goals.

Line: Navy by 7

Head-to-Head Pick: Navy

UConn (1-2, 0-1 AAC) at SMU (3-1)

4 p.m., ESPNews

Buzz: SMU will be a legit challenger in the West Division this year. Their only loss is to TCU, while they're coming off a 44-21 victory vs. Arkansas State (the same team that throttled UCF in the Cure Bowl last year). The Mustangs are averaging 48 points and 500 yards per game. UConn appears to be in for a long season, losing to ECU at home on Sunday.

Line: SMU by 17

Head-to-Head Pick: SMU

Memphis (3-0) at UCF (2-0)

7 p.m., ESPN2

Buzz: One of the top games in the AAC this year among two teams expected to compete in their respective divisions. UCF has won the last nine games in the series, though the two schools haven't met since 2013. Memphis appeared to have somewhat of a letdown after their big win vs. UCLA, keeping it close with FCS Southern Illinois before pulling away 44-31. Three weeks and two days after their season-opening win vs. FIU, UCF played their second game, a 38-10 win at Maryland. Defense hasn't been Memphis' strong suit and several starters have been lost due to injury since the season began. UCF will be without the services this year of starting RB Jawon Hamilton, who dislocated an ankle at Maryland.

Line: UCF by 4

Head-to-Head Pick: UCF

Marshall (2-1) at Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 AAC)

7 p.m., ESPN3

Buzz: Two Ohio River teams that haven't played as much as you might think - this is only the 13th meeting in a series that dates back to 1906. The Herd have wins this season vs. Miami-Ohio (31-26) and Kent State (21-0) and a loss to NC State (37-20). Cincinnati is lucky not to be 1-3. On Sept. 16 at Miami-Ohio, the Redhawks had a 17-14 lead with one minute left and threw a pick-six, gift-wrapping a win for their rivals. Former UCF recruiting target Khalil Lewis leads the Bearcats with 21 receptions for 212 yards and four touchdowns.

Line: Cincinnati by 3.5

Head-to-Head Pick: Marshall

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