At the start of the 2021 season, there was so much hope for UCF and their new head coach Gus Malzahn.
Now, having lost three of their last four games, UCF (3-3, 1-2 AAC) is struggling just to stay above .500.
This week, the Knights are hosting in Memphis at Bounce House in Orlando for a Friday game at 7 p.m.
Memphis (4-3, 1-2 AAC) started the year 3-0, lost three straight and rebounded with a 35-17 victory over Navy. The UCF lost to Navy 34-30 on October 2, their only common opponent to date.
The Knights have owned the series all time, but that means little going into this year’s contest.
Here’s what you need to know about this game.
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UCF dominated Memphis
Memphis won the 2020 edition of the series in an exciting way, 50-49. He ended UCF’s 13-game winning streak against the Tigers.
Memphis’ only other victory came when they first met in 1990. UCF lead the all-time series 13-2 and are a perfect 7-0 at home against Memphis.
When these two teams meet, the games are sure to be exciting.
In 2018, UCF beat Memphis twice: 31-30 in the regular season and 56-41 in the Conference Championship game. In 2017, UCF won 62-55 in overtime.
To infinity and beyond
The UCF game against Memphis will be the fifth annual #UCFinSpace game.
The Knights will wear homage uniforms at the nearby Kennedy Space Center.
In fact, the 50-meter line of the UCF football stadium aligns with the exact latitude of NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A. It was the launch pad that sent humans to the moon and launched the majority of space shuttle missions.
The UCF is 4-0 in the space games, which feature some of the best-designed uniforms in college football. Each year they are a little different.
The first space match took place in 2017, with UCF defeating East Carolina on its return home. In 2018, they sent Temple. In 2019 it was Houston and in 2020 Tulane.
Where is the “D”?
The UCF ranks 110th in defensive scorers, allowing 33.2 points per game. The Knights are 72nd in total defense, allowing 384.2 yards per game, 44th in passing defense (207.5) and 96th in rushing defense (176.7).
Defensive coordinator Travis Williams, in his first season with the team, was tasked with straightening the UCF defense which ranked 123rd nationally in total defense a season ago, allowing for 491.8 yards. per game and 92nd in defense, dropping 33.2 points per game.
Allowing less than 300 yards in each of its first two games, UCF made it in consecutive outings for the first time since their feat against SMU and South Florida on November 22-28, 2014.
Where is the “O”?
Last week, UCF scored just 21 points against No. 3 Cincinnati, their worst offensive outing of the season.
In fact, it was the Knights’ lowest points total since their 31-13 loss to Arkansas State at the Cure Bowl on December 17, 2016.
Memphis sports the No. 116 passing defense, which allows for 277.3 yards per game.
In his fourth start, true first-year quarterback Mikey Keene will need to make a few down throws to test the Memphis high school.
Last week, Keene was just 16 for 27 for 141 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
If he continues to struggle, maybe it’s time to see what Jacksonville’s Joey Gatewood can do.
Who’s the freshman QB is better?
Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan is a true freshman who threw for 2,153 yards and 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He has started all seven of Memphis games this season.
He left the win over Navy last week with a hand injury, but was back in training as usual this week.
With two real freshmen, it’s likely this game won’t look like the 2020 edition.
The Tigers won 50-49 after trailing 21 points in the fourth quarter. Then-quarterback Brady White threw seven touchdowns that day, while currently injured UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel passed for 601 passing yards.