The 2017 UCF football season kicks off in just a few months. Coach Scott Frost came to Orlando last season and helped the Knights to a six-win improvement, which means expectations will be even higher this year. In this opponent preview series, we’ll be breaking down each team that UCF will see this fall.
Week 2 (Sept. 9, 8 p.m., ESPNews): vs. Memphis Tigers
Last Year: 8-5 (5-3 American)
Last Meeting: UCF 24, Memphis 17 (Oct. 5, 2013)
All-time series: UCF leads 9-1
The Knights will get conference play started early this year, hosting the Memphis Tigers in week two. Memphis, which is entering its second season under coach Mike Norvell, has been on the verge of greatness for a few years now but just hasn’t gotten over the hump. The Tigers won 15 games in a row between 2014 and 2015 and took a share of the conference title in 2014. But since then, the team has been stagnant. Memphis has won some big games, but still failed to make the conference title game in both 2015 and 2016.
Offensively, Memphis should be dangerous. Senior quarterback Riley Ferguson will be back for one more year, fresh off a big finish to the 2016 season. In the final six games, he tossed 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions. His season as a whole was a big one, as he threw for 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’ll have some big help, with senior running back Doroland Dorceus (810 yards, nine touchdowns) and his top three receiving targets coming back. Redshirt senior Anthony Miller was dangerous last year, catching 95 passes for 1,434 yards and 14 touchdowns. There’s a mixture of veterans and inexperience along the offensive line, but the group should be able to do enough to support Ferguson and his offensive arsenal this fall.
On the defensive side of the ball, Memphis has some issues to work out. The front seven struggled heavily last year, failing to get much of a push against the run. The secondary was a big bright spot, but there will be some significant turnover this year. How well the new group can adjust will likely be the key to Tigers’ season. The team’s top two leading tacklers, senior linebacker Genard Avery and senior defensive back Jonathan Cook, are back to lead the defense. The unit as a whole was somewhat hit-or-miss last year. It gave up as few as three points to Bowling Green and seven to Kansas, SMU and Cincinnati. On the flip side, it gave up 48 points to Ole Miss, 59 to Tulsa, 49 to USF and 51 to Western Kentucky.
The Tigers are legitimate contenders in the American this season. There’s a lot to like about their roster and if they can get things squared away with the defense, 2017 could be a banner year for the program.
Final Thoughts: The Tigers present a tough matchup for the Knights, especially with it only being week two of the season. UCF’s defense will have to show up big and hope the offense can come along quickly. This game may be a tossup.