Memphis Tigers

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Mike Norvell boosts Power Five stock as Memphis upends UCLA

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Entering this season, any list of Group of Five head coaches who could be targets of a Power Five search included Mike Norvell.  After today, the Memphis coach likely inched closer to the top of that particular class.

In a back-and-forth affair that featured a pair of ties and seven lead changes, a three-yard touchdown pass from Riley Ferguson proved to be the difference as Memphis outlasted No. 25 UCLA 48-45.  The Tigers remained a perfect 3-0 on the season, while the Bruins dropped its first game of the year after winning its first two, the first a scintillating come-from-behind win over Texas A&M in the season opener.

Memphis took its largest lead of the game early in the third quarter, with another Ferguson touchdown pass put the Tigers up 34-24.  For the game, Ferguson threw for 398 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.

After Josh Rosen tossed a pick-six to push the Tigers’ lead back out to 10 at 41-31, the junior quarterback tossed a pair of touchdown passes on two of the next three possessions to give the Bruins its last lead of the game at 45-41 and its first since late in the second quarter.

Rosen threw for a game-high 463 yards and four touchdowns, although his two interceptions were critical in the loss, a loss that continues a disturbing trend for the Bruins.

While Norvell’s stock is rising, the heat underneath his counterpart, Jim Mora, continues to climb.  Mora was one a handful of coaches who, entering the season, was viewed as being in a win-or-else situation.  Games such as this certainly won’t help make Mora’s case for continuing on in 2018.

Big weekend for the AAC and Mountain West Conference

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For a conference trying to sell itself as the nation’s sixth power conference, Week 3 looks to be a pretty big one to do its best to prove it. The American Athletic Conference, which is going all in on its belief it is the sixth power conference and not one of the Group of Five conferences, will play games against the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 this weekend. And that includes games against four ranked opponents, two of which will be played in an AAC stadium.

It all gets started tonight with preseason favorite South Florida hosting Illinois from the Big Ten. The Bulls are a prohibitive favorite, which comes as no surprise. Quarterback Quinton Flowers could go off against the Illini, who have a record of 2-0 thanks to wins against Ball State and Western Kentucky. With Charlie Strong as head coach, the Bulls have not looked quite as automatic through the first two weeks as many predicted, but this could be their opportunity to put it all together on a national stage.

On Saturday, Memphis will look to score a significant upset at home against No. 25 UCLA. The Bruins are off to a 2-0 start but cross-country trip for a noon eastern kickoff has been known to give a west coast team trouble in the past. If the Tigers can catch the Bruins off to a slumbering start, Memphis may have to hope Josh Rosen and company don’t wake up in the fourth quarter the way they did against Texas A&M. A Memphis win would be key to the AAC as a whole too, as a win against a ranked opponent from a power conference gives the AAC a strength of schedule argument to boost itself up in the long run.

The AAC will have a few other cracks at ranked opponents. The team with the best chance, most likely, to score a win against a ranked team may be SMU. The Mustangs visit rival TCU, ranked 20th in the AP poll and coming off a win on the road against Arkansas. East Carolina hosts No. 16 Virginia Tech, and Tulane visits No. 2 Oklahoma. Either AAC team picking up a win in those games would be a shocker.

One other game against an ACC school was scratched due to Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. UCF, who looked really good in their opener, was to host Georgia Tech. Instead, the Knights will get a week off before returning to action next week on the road against Maryland.

The one game that should probably be the most interesting to watch, however, may take place in Ohio. MAC favorite Toledo is hosting Tulsa in a key Group of 5 vs. Group of 5 matchup. The Rockets have looked good and are a solid favorite, but Tulsa is a team to keep an eye on in the AAC. A year after an undefeated MAC champion grabbed the New Years Six spot in the bowl lineup, the AAC delivering a blow to the preseason MAC favorites could knock the MAC out of contention entirely before even getting to October.

AAC vs. Power 5 In Week 3

  • No. 22 USF vs. Illinois (FRI)
  • Memphis vs. No. 25 UCLA
  • Virginia vs. UConn
  • East Carolina vs. No. 16 Virginia Tech
  • No. 20 TCU vs. SMU
  • No. 2 Oklahoma vs. Tulane

Not to be outdone, the Mountain West Conference has a healthy diet of games against power conference competition this weekend as well. Air Force travels to No. 7 Michigan, Utah State visits Wake Forest, Colorado State is in Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama, Wyoming is hosting Oregon, Fresno State visits No. 6 Washington, San Jose State visits Utah, and San Diego State hosts No. 19 Stanford. That is seven games against power conference teams, including games against three top 10 teams. Most of those matchups do not appear to give the MWC many favors, although San Diego State hosting Stanford could be interesting.

Before conference play begins in these conferences, this will be the last major opportunities for the AAC and MWC to showcase their stuff in non-conference play. These games could make or break the conference’s chances of getting in the lucrative New Years Six lineup at the end of the year, so neither conference will want to squander their opportunities this weekend.

Memphis-UCF game rescheduled for Sept. 30 in Orlando as part of AAC shuffling

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Memphis and Central Florida will be playing this year after all.

The schools and the American Athletic Conference confirmed that the Tigers would travel to Orlando to play the Knights on September 30th in a game that was previously scheduled for September 9th but was moved due to Hurricane Irma hitting the state last week.

“I would like to thank the presidents and athletic directors at Memphis and UCF, whose cooperation made this possible,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco. “I also want to thank Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb, Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson, and Maine athletic director Karlton Creech for their flexibility and cooperation. We look forward to playing our full, 48-game conference schedule and having our champion decided on the field.”

As a result of the game being moved, both Memphis and UCF bought out of their games (likely with help from the conference coffers) with Georgia State and Maine, respectively, that were originally set to take place on 9/30. The Panthers announced that they would receive a whopping $1.1 million in cancellation fees and expenses as a result of the move.

Moving Memphis/UCF was the final piece of the puzzle for the AAC in order to get all of the games canceled or moved due to Hurricane Irma in this year. All of the other games that were moved due to the storm were announced earlier on Thursday and details can be found here.

AAC announced hurricane-related adjustment to league slate

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Several FBS games were affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma the first two weeks of the college football season.  Wednesday, one conference took significant steps to get their games in, although there’s still one left to take.

South Florida’s Week 2 game against UConn was postponed as the Bulls prepared for Irma to hit the Tampa area.  The AAC has now announced that game will be played on Nov. 4, which triggered the adjustment of a handful of other games in the conference involving not only those two schools but Cincinnati, East Carolina and Houston as well.

Below are all of the scheduling changes made by the league in an effort to get all AAC games played this season.

UCONN
UConn will host ECU Sunday, Sept. 24 (replacing an open date) and will host USF Saturday, Nov. 4 (replacing the original date of the ECU game). The game will be played on a Sunday due to the unavailability of Pratt & Whitney Stadium on Saturday.

USF
USF will host Cincinnati Saturday, Oct. 14 (replacing a previously scheduled game against Massachusetts), will host Houston Saturday, Oct. 28 (replacing the original game against Cincinnati), and will play at UConn Saturday, Nov. 4 (replacing the original game against Houston).

CINCINNATI
Cincinnati will play at USF Saturday, Oct. 14 and will have its open date Oct. 28 (replacing an Oct. 14 open date and the game at USF Oct. 28).

ECU
ECU will visit UConn Sunday, Sept. 24 (replacing an open date), will have an open date Saturday, Oct. 28 (replacing a game against Houston), and will play at Houston Saturday, Nov. 4 (replacing the previously scheduled game against UConn).

HOUSTON
Houston will play at USF Saturday, Oct. 28 (instead of Nov. 4) and will host ECU Saturday, Nov. 4 (instead of Oct. 28).

Still left to be rescheduled is the Memphis-UCF game, which was postponed last weekend as well because of Irma.

“I would like to thank our presidents, athletic directors and our head football coaches for their outstanding collaboration and cooperation to resolve this unprecedented situation in as fair a manner as possible,” said commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement. “I would also like to acknowledge and thank Ryan Bamford of UMass for his cooperation and understanding. This was not an easy process, but we feel that this revised schedule is a significant step toward giving us the best opportunity to decide our champion on the field.”

 

With Memphis-UCF postponed, just two FBS teams from state of Florida will take the field in Week 2

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And then there were two.

Friday morning, UCF officially announced that its game against Memphis scheduled for tonight has been suspended due to concerns over Hurricane Irma.  Earlier this week, the two AAC teams had agreed to move the game from Friday to Saturday in an attempt to get ahead of the superstorm.

The release further stated that “[i]t was not immediately clear if the teams would be able to reschedule the game later in the season.” UCF has its bye the weekend of Oct. 28, while Memphis’ is the weekend of Nov. 11, making it highly unlikely the game will be able to be rescheduled this season.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we agree that the game should not be played on Friday,” said UCF athletic director Danny White and his Memphis counterpart, Tom Bowen, in a joint statement. “We agree with [Florida] Governor [Rick] Scott that preparation for Hurricane Irma should be the top priority for the state. While our fans will no doubt be disappointed, we know they understand that safety has to come first.”

With this cancellation, just two of the seven FBS team from the state of Florida will take the field in Week 2.

Thursday, both Florida (HERE) and Florida State (HERE) announced that Saturday games against FCS opponents, which had already been moved up to a noon ET start time initially, had been canceled.  Additionally, Miami’s game against Arkansas State in Jonesboro was canceled; and South Florida’s game Syracuse was scrubbed as well.

Florida Atlantic’s game against Wisconsin in Madison will go off as originally planned.  Florida International’s home game against Alcorn State, originally scheduled to be played in Miami, has been moved to Birmingham, Ala.