AAC Football

2017 AAC Championship Game: Memphis @ UCF

UCF’s 49-42 win Black Friday over the Bulls of the University of South Florida is going down as one of the top games in 2017.

Not just for either of the two rival teams – but the whole of college football.

For the Knights specifically, it locked up the East-Division Championship in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).  As great as the opportunity to host the Memphis Tigers for the conference crown may be, UCF also capped off the single best regular season performance in the institution’s history, posting more wins than any other while also going undefeated.

When I spoke to 2017 All ACC linebacker Shaquem Griffin on Monday, he commented that the energy in the atmosphere at Spectrum Stadium was so intense that his legs “felt like noodles” at some points.

“I was like, ‘I know I’m not tired. What’s going on?” Griffin added, “It was the first time I had that feeling.  But it was all the butterflies and all the emotions just going through my body.  It was an amazing feeling and I’m glad we got past it.”

When you hear of a contest with so much hype swirling about, one might ask how the team digs down to find the tenacity to bring the same level of intensity the following week. After all, no team wants to come out flat for a conference championship.

Head Coach Scott Frost addressed this saying, “This has been such a fun season that I think rather than guys being tired and looking for a finish line, I think they’re gonna be sad when this season ends.”

Coach Frost continued, “It’s been a magical ride.  We’ve had some unbelievable games. This is an unbelievably tight-nit group. They don’t seem like a team that’s tired and looking for the finish line. They seem like a team that is enjoying being around each other and having fun at practice and trying to accomplish absolutely everything that they can accomplish.”

While the UCF fans’ confidence is well founded by the 40-13 declawing of the Tigers earlier this season, ruling this as an automatic ‘W’ is not a smart move. In the rest of Memphis’ games on the year, the offense under quarterback Riley Ferguson averages 51 points a game – more than UCF’s 48 in their 11 games.

Also, the big lead that the Knights accrued early in the previous game caused the visitors to abandon their run game.  That means that running back Darrell Henderson was unable to impact the contest to control the tempo and balance his squad’s attack.  This meant his defense had to work harder while his opponents had the opportunity to rest and maintain the aggressive pass rush on Ferguson that spiraled them down the path of posting their season’s lowest-scoring game.

Come Noon on Saturday, if the Tigers pounce quickly with mistake-free football,  and boast a defensive unit which is now healthier than it was in September, the Knights will be in for a fight.

If that is the scenario, at least the two powers may post a closer score for the fans watching in Orlando, Florida.

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