Looking to get back to its winning ways after last week’s loss to SMU, Memphis hosts the University of Central Florida at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday. (Photo: gotigersgo.com)

It is almost weird to think that the University of Memphis football team will play its third game on the season Saturday (Oct. 17) against the University of Central Florida at 2:30 on ABC.

This is a pivotal game for both teams. For the first time in recent history both teams entered the game after a loss.

Memphis and UCF were among the favorites to win the American Athletic Conference championship this season.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused havoc in college football, delaying the start of conferences’ seasons and the postponement of games when players and coaches test positive for the virus, which has killed some 219,000 people nationwide.

The Tigers have had to reschedule games because of the virus.

Memphis is the current AAC champion and the Knights won the championship the previous year.

This rivalry is marked on the Tigers schedule every season. The Knights are the only team in the conference that Memphis has not defeated in football.

Yes, the Knights have given the Tigers many heartbreaks over the last several years.

For two consecutive seasons, Memphis had to go to Orlando to play the Knights in the AAC Championship game. Memphis lost both those games.

Two years ago, the Tigers had the Knights on the ropes at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, but Memphis was not able to secure the win at the end of the game.

Memphis enters the game with a 1-1 record and looking for its first conference win of the season. The Knights are 2-1 and are 1-1 in conference play.

This game is critical for both teams. A win will likely vault the winner back into the national rankings.

Tigers’ Quarterback Brady White and the Memphis offense will look to get back on track after the roller coaster start to the season.

Memphis has one of the most prolific offenses in the nation but, because of the virus, has had difficulty finding an offensive rhythm.

The Tigers are scheduled to play the next eight weeks barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Although Memphis is the home team, many on the team are entering the UCF game as if the Tigers are the underdog.

Head Coach Ryan Silverfield knows the Tigers have to account for the speed of the Knights.

“They are very fast on offense and they are going to try to get 100 plays. They have playmakers. The quarterback is dynamic and one of the best in the country,” said Silverfield.

Kylan Watkins, a Whitehaven High School product, will be playing in his first game against the Knights. He has been a versatile player, catching and running out of the backfield this season.

“We are playing on ABC again and we are going to have more people in the stands, and we are playing UCF,” said Watkins.

“We are trying to prepare and live in the moment, because this is not something everyone will get to do.”

Things will be much different for the second home game of the season. In the first home game, only 4,000 fans were allowed to attend because of COVID. Up to 12,000 will be admitted for the game against the Knights.