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Memphis Football: 5 Reasons Why the Tigers Will Win the AAC Championship Game

Memphis Football: 5 Reasons Why the Tigers Will Win the AAC Championship Game

Memphis Football: 5 Reasons Why the Tigers Will Win the AAC Championship Game

One of these days, Memphis is going to beat UCF. On Saturday, the Tigers (8-4, 5-3 AAC) get their latest crack at the Knights as they head to Orlando to play UCF (11-0, 8-0) in the AAC Championship Game for a second consecutive season.

Since 2005, Memphis is 0-12 against UCF but the Tigers have come close. Memphis dropped a one-point game to the Knights earlier this season and lost in overtime in last year’s championship game. Maybe the Tigers have working on closing the gap under head coach Mike Norvell, and maybe this will be they finally get to celebrate a win.

Here are some keys to a Memphis victory over UCF this weekend in Orlando as the Tigers look to snap the Knights' 24-game winning streak and take them out of the running for a return trip to the New Year's Six.

5 Reasons Why Memphis Will Win the AAC Championship Game

1. UCF playing without McKenzie Milton

The biggest headline going into this year’s AAC Championship Game is the recent injury to UCF's outstanding dual-threat quarterback. Milton was injured in last week’s regular-season finale against South Florida and will not be available this weekend against Memphis. Without their top offensive player, UCF will look to freshman Darriel Mack Jr. to run the offense. Memphis has played some of the best defense in the AAC this season and did well to prevent Milton from exploding on them earlier this season. Finding a way to put pressure on the freshman in a big spot will be key.

2. Establishing the run with Darrell Henderson

Running the ball has worked out well for the Tigers this season, and there is no reason to expect the formula will change much this week. Henderson leads the AAC with 1,699 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. Earlier this season against UCF, Henderson ran for 199 yards and a touchdown. Last week against Houston, in helping Memphis clinch the AAC West Division, Henderson averaged 7.42 yards per carry. UCF is ninth in the AAC against the run, so Henderson should play a critical role in the outcome.

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3. Getting Damonte Coxie in the open field

Coxie, just a sophomore, is one of three receivers in the AAC with 1,000 receiving yards this season. UCF does not typically give up many big plays, but if the Tigers establish the run, then Brady White should be able to have some opportunities to get the ball to his go-to target for some key plays.

4. Find a way to force UCF to leave points on the board

This one may be easier said than done, but Memphis has to figure out a way to clamp down any time UCF gets the ball inside the 20-yard line. UCF has scored touchdowns on 79.59 percent of their 49 trips to the red zone this season. Only Houston has had a better red zone touchdown success rate in the AAC, as the Knights have had to settle for a field goal just five times when they get inside the red zone.

Memphis may have one of the better defenses in the conference, but giving up points to opponents in the red zone has been a glaring weakness. Memphis has allowed 29 touchdowns in 41 red zone trips, nearly 71 percent of the time.

5. Let the defensive line go to work

The reason Memphis has been so strong on defense is because of the work being done up front. Defensive linemen Jonathan Wilson and Joseph Dorceus each have six sacks this season, and the line opens up holes for linebacker Bryce Huff to cause some havoc as well. Huff has 9.5 sacks this season and all three should be a concern for UCF this week.

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.

(Top photo by Joe Murphy/University of Memphis)