UCF-Memphis Betting Guide: How to Handicap the Knights Without McKenzie Milton
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Darriel Mack Jr.
AAC Championship Betting Odds for UCF-Memphis
- Odds: UCF -3
- Total: 64.5
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
Memphis should be incredibly motivated in this game after losing three times in the past two years to UCF, including once earlier this year by a single point at home.
The other two losses came last year in Orlando, where this game will be played. The first was a blowout. The second came in heartbreaking fashion in the 2017 AAC Championship Game, when UCF won 62-55 in double overtime.
But for the first time during that three-game stretch, UCF will be without star quarterback McKenzie Milton, who suffered a gruesome, season-ending leg injury last week against South Florida.
The line has shifted dramatically with Milton out, but has this actually created some value on the Knights? Let’s dive in.
Odds Movement for UCF-Memphis
By Danny Donahue
With McKenzie Milton out for UCF, the Knights are getting less than 50% of bets for the first time all season. They’ve also been seeing their odds to win this game decrease throughout the week.
The 59% of bets and 70% of dollars that have hit Memphis have caused oddsmakers to drop the Tigers’ line from +7.5 to +3.
The Milton injury seems to have affected betting on the total, as well. At the time of writing 66% of bets and 72% of dollars have hit the under this week, and oddsmakers have reacted. After opening the total at 70, they’ve now dropped it as far as 64.5 thanks to the lopsided action.
Memphis averages 6.2 yards per rush, which ranks third nationally — thanks to stud running back and nation’s second-leading rusher Darrell Henderson, who averages a silly 8.6 yards per carry. That’s somehow less than he averaged in 2017 (8.9).
Henderson ran the ball 31 times for 199 yards against UCF in the Tigers’ first meeting and I expect a similar workload against a UCF defense that allows 4.5 yards per rush (78th in the country). If you have never seen Henderson, tune in on Saturday because it’s a treat. There’s a reason Memphis ranks No. 1 in rush explosiveness.
Memphis Finished Strong
By Steve Petrella
Memphis had some baffling results this season — a 16-point loss at Tulane and a loss against Navy. But the Tigers definitely finished strong.
Memphis had a postgame win expectancy of at least 94% in their final four games, meaning they deserved to win all those game handily, and averaged at least 6.0 yards per play in all of them. The only game the Tigers finished with fewer than 47 points was a 28-18 win over SMU.
Perhaps more importantly — because we know how good Memphis’ offense is — the Tigers allowed fewer than 4.7 yards per play in each of their last three games. The competition wasn’t great, but it’s a big improvement for a team that gave up 6.9 yards per play to South Alabama and 6.1 to East Carolina.
Pace, Big Plays Without Milton
The Memphis defense has struggled to contain explosive plays (101st IsoPP+), which would normally spell trouble against one of the most explosive offenses in the country in UCF. However, it’s hard to gauge how explosive the Knights will still be without Milton.
Similarly, it’s hard to know if UCF will go at its same pace (No. 2 in Adjusted Pace) without Milton. I can confidently say that Memphis will still play fast, as it ranks in the top 20 in Adjusted Pace.
Bet to Watch
By Collin Wilson
The Action Network projection on this game would have been Central Florida -9 before the Milton news, but a full touchdown was deducted from the Knights’ power rating after the quarterback’s gruesome injury.
Freshman Darriel Mack Jr. steps in at quarterback with 43 attempts for 174 yards on the season. Mack can run the ball a bit, with almost 300 yards on the season at 8.3 yards per carry. Listed at 6-foot-33 and 230 pounds, Central Florida may be more likely to increase its run rate to match the skills Mack brings to the table. Only 61 points were scored in the initial meeting, and with the quarterback change there is certainly a case for the under in this game.
Going to a ground approach for Central Florida may create more efficiency in the absence of Milton. The Knights are 13th in opportunity rate and 12th in stuff rate, meaning the offensive line is creating short and medium rushing gains with little resistance.
While Memphis has a better rush than pass defense, teams that used a power rush on early downs beat the Tigers. Missouri, Tulane and Navy were all rush-first teams in standard downs that won outright over Memphis.
UCF at -3 is worth a small investment, but the better play is live if your sportsbook offers such wagering. We don’t know exactly what we will get out of Mack, but if the first series is all run plays, then we can expect an under and small UCF side to have value.
Play UCF 1H, Memphis 2H
II’m going to get greedy here and wait to bet Memphis live and hopefully some more at half if UCF jumps out to a lead.
I think UCF might come out and give a really inspired effort at home to start the game (you see this a lot after a team loses its star) in honor of Milton, but that can only sustain itself for so long and I eventually think Memphis can find a way to get its revenge by riding Henderson in the second half.
Trends to Know
By John Ewing
Top 25 teams are often overvalued, especially when facing an unranked opponent. In conference championship games, the ranked team has gone 3-12 ATS since 2005 in this scenario.
By Evan Abrams
Since November of last season, during Central Florida’s 24-game winning streak, the Knights have faced four teams averaging at least 40 PPG — like Memphis — and Central Florida is 1-3 ATS, winning by margins of just 1, 7, 7 and 7 points.
Did You Know?
By Evan Abrams
Central Florida owns the nation’s longest winning streak at 24 games and enters the AAC Championship Game undefeated for a second consecutive year.
Since 2005, this will be the sixth time an undefeated team plays a conference title game outside the Power 5 conferences. Those teams are 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS, with the only cover coming from Central Florida last year against Memphis, which won by seven and barely covered the 6.5-point spread.
Memphis has also scored at least 28 points in seven consecutive games — during UCF’s 24-game winning streak, it has only faced one other team who has scored at least 28 points in even four straight games, and that was Memphis in the AAC Championship game last year.