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AAC West Title Game Preview: Houston at Memphis

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Memphis v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Date: Friday, November 23rd

Time: 11:00am CT

Location: Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)

TV: ABC/WatchESPN

Line: Memphis -7


Memphis Outlook

How quickly can things change? Just three weeks ago, Memphis had zero chance of winning the division. They needed so many things to happen to even get a shot. All of it happened, and the Tigers are looking to make a second consecutive appearance in the conference championship game.

Not much has changed with this team. The defense continues to be a liability, while the offense does its best to score points. Darrell Henderson is the best running back in the country, and will garner most of Houston’s attention Friday. When he’s out, Patrick Taylor takes over and provides a punishing running style. If he’s out too, Tony Pollard slide into the backfield from receiver. Speaking of those receivers, there are a lot of them to worry about. Damonte Coxie is the biggest threat, as evident by his 1,039 yards and seven touchdowns. Pollard and Pop Williams are utilized in both the pass and run games, but tight ends Joey Magnifico and Sean Dykes are downfield threats to worry about. Dykes scored the go ahead touchdown against the Cougars last year. Quarterback Brady White has options, and he’s facing a team that struggles mightily to stop the pass. It just comes down to defense.

Yes, Memphis has been bad defensively, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t players to watch. Curtis Akins leads the Tigers in tackles for the second consecutive year, while Bryce Huff appears to be taking over for Genard Avery’s production (16 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks). Austin Hall is a Swiss Army Knife on defense, and has the potential to be a star. TJ Carter may have taken a step back, but is still a corner you want to be careful around. This team has potential, but they haven’t been able to put anything together.

As if this game wasn’t intense enough, the Tigers decided to ramp things up a notch as well.

Houston Outlook

Houston is taking a different approach with the trash talk, but still sending a message.

Houston has met the injury bug at a terrible time (not that there is ever a good time to have it), but still managed to fight through adversity to get to this point. The AAC West was once theirs for the taking, but losses to SMU and Temple put them in a bad spot. Now, thanks to Memphis beating SMU, they have a chance to reclaim what was once theirs. They’ll have to do it without one of their stars.

Besides losing their entire defensive line, Houston hadn’t sustained any major injuries until last week. D’Eriq King was having a career year for the Cougars, and it seemed that nothing could stop this offense from being successful. Except for King getting hurt. That happened last week when King was carrying out a fake and appeared to tweak his knee. At first, it didn’t look bad, but he had to be helped off of the field. Losing him is the biggest loss they could have sustained, and that includes Ed Oliver’s injury. Clayton Tune and Quinten Dormady will be taking reps this week, but the question remains about who will start. Major Applewhite is trying to do what’s best for his team, but also for each of his quarterbacks. Regardless of who plays, they will be playing the biggest game of the season, and a lot is riding on their play.

Prediction

Neither team expected this game to matter this much, but here we are. The biggest question will be how Houston’s offense performs without King. Memphis has found new life with its new opportunity, and the Cougars might be scrambling to find answers. This game is already intense, and you can expect plenty of chirping Friday morning. Houston. Memphis. Winner takes all for the AAC West crown.

Memphis 40 Houston 38