Ten months after missing out on the College Football Playoff despite an undefeated record and nine months after declaring itself national champions, UCF is once again raising questions about its merit for a potential historic berth in the CFP. No Group of Five team has made the playoff in its four-year history, but would the selection committee really be able to justify keeping the Knights out after a second straight unblemished season? UCF has cruised to 5–0 and has moved up in the AP Poll every week, from No. 21 in the preseason rankings to No. 10 ahead of Week 7. To keep the debate raging, UCF has to survive its first real challenge, a road date against a talented Memphis team that has revenge on its mind.
If things had gone differently during Memphis’s two trips to Orlando last season, it could’ve been the Tigers who were giving the committee something to think about in early December. Memphis was 3–0 with a non-conference win over then-No. 25 UCLA when it gave up 34 unanswered points to UCF in a blowout loss Week 4 last year. The Tigers’ high-powered offense bounced back and led them to seven straight wins to end the regular season, setting up another road game against UCF for the AAC championship. The rematch was a much different game, albeit with the same result; the Knights outlasted Memphis 62–55 in a double-overtime thriller.
Sitting at 4–2 after upset losses to Navy and Tulane, Memphis doesn’t have the big dreams UCF does heading into this Saturday’s matchup, but it has something almost as good: the chance to squash those dreams. A Tigers win would not just knock UCF out of playoff contention, but would also end its 11-game win streak in this series and keep Memphis afloat in the AAC West. Working in Memphis’s favor is that it gets to play at home, where it hasn’t lost a regular-season game since November 2016. Still, it will take the Tigers’ best performance of the year to beat a juggernaut UCF team that hasn’t lost, period, since the calendar flipped to 2017.
UCF hasn’t missed a beat since Scott Frost left for Nebraska in the offseason, though this will be the first test for new head coach Josh Heupel. The Knights have handled business against one of the worst early-season schedules in the nation, averaging more than 48 points per game and allowing fewer than 18 so far. Junior quarterback McKenzie Milton has thrown for 1,500 yards with 20 total touchdowns and is playing like a Heisman contender despite losing last year’s leading receiver, Tre’Quan Smith, to the NFL. Milton has no shortage of weapons around him, with a trio of talented receivers led by sophomore Gabriel Davis and five running backs with at least 20 carries, led by junior Adrian Killins Jr.