The no. 18 Memphis Tigers will try to get one step closer to the AAC Championship Game when they travel south to take on the Houston Cougars. Game time is at 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 16 at TDECU Stadium in Houston. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The latest betting odds list Memphis as a 10.5-point road favorite. There is also an over/under of 69.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
Last time out, the Tigers scored their most important victory of the season, a 54-48 win in prime-time over SMU. It was the third win in a row for Memphis following their only loss of the season to Temple. At 8-1, Memphis is arguably the best Group of Five team in the country and could find themselves playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game if they can keep winning.
Of course, not everything is that simple. The Tigers are currently in a three-way battle inside the AAC West division with SMU and Navy. Right now, all three have one loss in conference play. Fortunately for Memphis, they have beaten both teams head to head, meaning they control their own destiny and will play in the conference championship game if they win the rest of their regular-season games. However, the Tigers still have to face tricky road games against Houston and South Florida, as well as their season finale against Cincinnati. A loss in any of those games could cost Memphis the chance to play for a conference championship.
Houston, meanwhile, began the season with aspirations of winning the AAC title, only to fall well short of those expectations. Following a 1-3 start to the season, multiple players decided to sit out the rest of the season so they could redshirt, most notably starting quarterback D’Eriq King. Not surprisingly, things didn’t improve after that, as the Cougars have lost three of their last four games.
As it stands, Houston is 3-6 and in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2012. The Cougars have to win their three remaining games to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately, that schedule includes home games against both Memphis and Navy, two top-25 teams. But if Houston can pull off an upset this weekend, they’ll get a big confidence boost and might be able to turn things around late in the season.
Of course, the Cougars are winless in their last three games against the Tigers. Memphis won this matchup 52-31 a year ago and even eked out a 42-38 win in Houston two years ago.
At this point, it’s tough to bet against Memphis. Sure, the Tigers have a loss on their record and a few close wins, but other than possibly Cincinnati, they are head and shoulders above the rest of the AAC. I hate to write off a desperate Houston team that’s playing at home, but I don’t think they can hang with the Tigers for 60 minutes. I’ll take Memphis to win and cover.
The Memphis offense has been flat-out electric almost the entire season. The Tigers started slowly in their opener against Ole Miss and had a hiccup against Temple, but they’ve been otherwise close to unstoppable. The Tigers have scored at least 42 points in each of their last three games, including wins over the likes of Tulane and SMU, who are also among the best teams in the AAC.
With Patrick Taylor missing most of the season due to injury, the Tigers essentially lost their top three rushers from last season, including two who ran for over 1,100 yards. Yet, the Memphis rushing attack has hardly missed a beat with Kenneth Gainwell already eclipsing 1,000 yards on the season while averaging close to seven yards per carry. Quarterback Brady White has been even more impressive, connecting on 68% of his passes while averaging over 10 yards per pass. On top of that, he’s taking care of the football, throwing just four interceptions while tossing 23 touchdown passes.
I don’t see how the Cougars can hope to keep the Memphis offense contained enough to stay within striking distance. The likes of Tulane, Cincinnati, and Central Florida have all scored at least 38 points against Houston this season. None of those teams are at the same level as the Memphis offense, making it hard to believe the Cougars can slow down the Tigers.
Meanwhile, I have serious doubts about the Houston offense being able to keep up in a shootout. While the Cougars have a potent rushing attack, King still has twice as many rushing touchdowns as any other player on Houston’s roster despite only playing in four games. Also, backup quarterback Clayton Tune probably isn’t up for a shootout with White and the Tigers. He’s completed just 55% of his passes this season with a mere six touchdown passes. Once Memphis cracks the 30-point barrier, it’ll be tough for the Houston offense to keep pace.
In the end, Houston’s path to victory in this game is rather thin. Outside of a close call with rival SMU, the Cougars have struggled to match up against the top teams in the AAC. I don’t see them being able to either slow down or match the AAC’s most dynamic offense. Eventually, I expect the Tigers to pull away in this game and cover the 10.5-point spread.