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Seven pivotal AAC games to watch down the stretch

A season ago, the Memphis Tigers put together the best run in program history on the way to an American Athletic Conference championship and appearance in the Cotton Bowl. Whether it was Tulsa’s missed field goal to keep their New Years’ Six bowl hopes alivetheir 54-48 shootout victory over SMU or consecutive wins over Cincinnati in back-to-back weeksthe stars seemed to align just right in Mike Norvell’s final year at the helm.  Now, with one loss already under their belts, they will once more need some good breaks in their quest to repeat as AAC champions. Here are ten league games that will have a significant impact on how it all shakes out down the stretch: 

  1. Temple @ Memphis         

When: Sat, Oct. 24 / 11 A.M. / ESPN+ 

Tigers fans still have not forgotten what happened the last time these teams linked up. (Yes, Joey still caught it.) While the Tigers’ win over UCF last weekend proved this team has a ton of heart, they will have to rely on that resiliency moving forward as they get accustomed to life without star receiver Damonte Coxie. The Owls typically give Memphis a tight game, so it will be imperative that they take care of business early on if they want to avoid dropping a second conference game.  

2.  #9 Cincinnati @ #16 SMU          

When: Sat, Oct. 24 / 8 P.M. / ESPN2  

At 5-0, the Mustangs are in the driver's seat of the AAC West division and will be looking to pick up their third-straight league win. Quarterback Shane Buechele is off to another strong start, but the Bearcats will be looking to play spoiler on homecoming night and hold firm in their place atop the East standings. You better believe Ryan Silverfield and company will be paying close attention to the outcome of this one.  

3. Memphis @ #9 Cincinnati  

When: Sat, Oct. 31 / 11 A.M.  

After dropping two in a row at the Liberty Bowl at the end of 2019, including the conference title game, Luke Fickell’s team will be extremely motivated for the Tigers’ visit to Nippert Stadium on Halloween morning. This is as big of a contest we’ll see the rest of this season in the AAC.  

4. Navy @ #16 SMU  

When: Sat, Oct. 31 / 11 A.M. / ESPN2  

A contrast of styles if there ever was one, SMU could potentially be 6-0 entering this game. The Midshipmen, off to a 3-0 start in conference play, are still the thick of the race in the East and will be looking to upend the Mustangs in Dallas with their smashmouth triple option attack. Notoriously a thorn in the side of Memphis, Navy could for once do them a solid by picking up a win here.  

5. Memphis @ Navy        

When: Sat, Nov. 14 / TBD 

Since the formation of the AAC, the triple-option offense of Navy has consistently given the Memphis defense trouble. In their 2019 meeting, a 35-23 win for the Tigers, the Midshipmen gashed the Memphis defense for 291 total yards on the ground and even got out to a 20-7 lead before Brady White led the surge in a comeback victory. This time aroundin Annapolis, with a new-look offense, Ryan Silverfield will need White to put his cape on once again and carry the Tigers to a road win if they hope to stay alive in the west division race.  

6. #9 Cincinnati @ UCF         

When: Sat, Nov. 21 / TBD 

A game with major East division implications, the winner of this series has gone on to participate in the league championship game in each of the last three seasons. After dropping two games early, including last week at Memphis, the Knights have serious some ground to make up if they hope to compete for what would be their third AAC title in four years.  

7.  Houston @ Memphis         

When: Sat, Dec. 5 / TBD 

The final game of the regular season for Memphis, it is very possible their quest to win their fourth straight division title will come down to this game. Houston, who hasn’t fared well against the Tigers recently, would undoubtedly love to play spoiler and pick up a signature road win for Dana Holgorson 

With the 2020 college football season beginning to heat up, the Memphis Tigers will once again be vying for another league championship in the ever-crowed AAC. Whether it be SMU, Cincinnati, Navy or even Houston, everyone seems to have a puncher’s chance. Luckily for the rest of us, there will be no shortage of compelling games to watch down the stretch to help sort it all out.  



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