The no. 18 Memphis Tigers will try to get one step closer to a conference championship as they head south this weekend to take on the South Florida Bulls. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 EST on Saturday, November 23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Fans can watch the game on ESPNU.
Current odds list Memphis as a 14.5-point favorite on the road with an over/under of 60 points. Click here to check out a complete list of this week’s college football betting odds.
At 9-1, Memphis is arguably the best team in the country outside the power conferences. A 2-point road loss to Temple is the only blemish on their record. However, the Tigers have no margin for error if they want to play in the AAC Championship Game. Memphis is currently in a three-way tie in the AAC West Division with SMU and Navy. All three teams have one loss in conference play with Memphis owning the head-to-head tiebreaker with both teams. But if Memphis wants to play in the conference title game, they likely have to win both of their remaining games. Otherwise, they’ll be passed by the winner of this week’s SMU-Navy game.
South Florida, on the other hand, needs to win their two remaining games just to become bowl eligible. It’s been a rough season for the Bulls, who lost six in a row to end the 2018 season and then began this year 1-3. USF rallied to get back to 4-4, only to lose a pair of close games with Temple and Cincinnati in recent weeks. The Bulls now need to pull off a home upset of Memphis and knock off in-state rival Central Florida to qualify for a bowl game. It’s by no means an easy task for South Florida, although they have shown plenty of fight in recent weeks.
This will be the first meeting between these teams since 2016 when South Florida beat Memphis in a 49-42 shootout. However, the Tigers knocked off the Bulls in three consecutive years prior to that. Memphis has also been victorious in their last three trips to Raymond James Stadium.
The line in this game moving above two touchdowns did give me second thoughts about eating the points. However, Memphis has just as much at stake as South Florida in this game, so I don’t think the Tigers will take anything for granted. Once they get rolling, they’ll be tough to stop, and I think Memphis will score enough points to win by a comfortable margin and cover the spread.
There haven’t been many teams in the AAC that have been able to handle the Memphis offense this season. Temple held the Tigers to just 28 points, but that required forcing four turnovers and Memphis still accumulated nearly 500 yards of total offense. Since that game, the Tigers have scored at least 42 points in four consecutive games, averaging 47 points per game over that span.
The Tigers simply have too much balance for opposing defenses to get a handle on them. Freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell has already surpassed 1,100 yards on the season and isn’t a bad option catching passes out of the backfield either. Meanwhile, quarterback Brady White is playing at a level that AAC defenses can’t match. He has 20 touchdown passes to just two interceptions against conference opponents this season. On the season, White has completed 67% of his passes while averaging more than 10 yards per pass, being a model for consistency and leading one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
To be fair, USF head coach Charlie Strong is a great defensive mind. The Bulls have also held three straight opponents to 20 points or less, including Cincinnati and Temple. However, South Florida hasn’t faced an offense that’s anywhere near as balanced and explosive as the Memphis offense. USF suffered a 48-21 loss when they faced SMU earlier this season, and I think Memphis will create even more problems for the South Florida defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Bulls aren’t good enough offensively to keep up in a track meet against Memphis. The USF offense has been stifled when facing the top teams in the AAC. Freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud has started to play better the past couple of weeks, but the Bulls have only managed 24 total points over those two games. Even if the Bulls can run the ball effectively, they don’t have the kind of passing attack that will enable them to match the Memphis offense. Also, the Memphis offense has started to play better in recent weeks, holding back-to-back opponents to under 100 yards rushing. That could spell trouble for the USF offense.
I don’t doubt that the Bulls will put up a good fight in this game, at least in the first half. But once the Memphis offense starts to click, they can be tough to stop. There’s little chance that the USF offense can keep up once the Tigers get beyond 30 points. It’ll be a close call against the spread, but I trust Memphis to keep the points coming and eventually cover.