Defense has been mostly optional in the first half of the American Athletic Conference this afternoon in Orlando. With the two best offenses in the conference going head-to-head, that was to be expected between UCF and Memphis, but it is the Memphis defense that has made the key plays in the first half. Memphis leads UCF 31-24 at the half after 30 minutes of back-and-forth scoring.
UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was cruising with three touchdowns as UCF was looking like a well-oiled machine on offense, but a pair of interceptions in the red zone prevented UCF from tacking on more points in the first half, and Memphis took advantage of those turnovers. The Tigers took the lead and padded it just before halftime with 10 points off the turnovers. Memphis has scored 17 points off UCF’s three turnovers, while the Tigers have given up one touchdown off a turnover.
Milton has passed for 306 yards with three touchdowns and the two interceptions. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson has completed 12 of 13 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover. Anthony Miller has been on the receiving end of four of those passes with 92 yards and a touchdown. At the half, UCF and Memphis have combined for 865 yards of offense and 32 first downs.
The stakes in this game are well known at this point. The winner of this game will be the highest-ranked conference champion from a Group of Five conference, which will be rewarded with a guaranteed spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up. The Peach Bowl in Atlanta appears to be the most likely destination, with an opponent to be chosen form the at-large bids available from the College Football Playoff selection committee on Sunday.