MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Will the third time be the charm for Memphis? The Tigers football is set to play in its third straight American Athletic Conference Championship game! The first two were played on the road at unbeaten UCF, Memphis lost both times.
This time, it’s right in the Tigers backyard at the Liberty Bowl! Saturday’s AAC title matchup between 17th ranked Memphis and 20th ranked Cincinnati could be epic.
In the 150 years college football’s been around, there’s only been four instances where two teams have played each other in back to back weeks. Memphis and Cincinnati will make it just the fifth time that’s happened when they meet at the Liberty Bowl for the American Athletic Conference Championship game.
The 17th ranked Tigers beat the 20th ranked Bearcats just last week in the regular season finale, but historically, the winning team from the week before hasn’t fared well in the second matchup with just one sweep ever.
“Didn’t study a whole lot of that - I think that, you know, it’s obviously unique as it is. To play a team back-to-back, to try to study the history of the four times it’s happened in college football; like I said, we got a lot of things on our plate and a lot of things to do," said Cincinnati Head Coach Luke Fickell. “But how much different can you be and what little things can you do, and I think ultimately when can you settle in? And, you know, as opposed to what happened in the other games, it’s going to be unique.”
That’s not the only stat that makes this matchup unique. Memphis is also just the fifth team to play in three consecutive conference championship games in all of college football. And this time, the Tigers are determined to win -- something they haven’t done in their last two apperances.
“This off season, I spent a lot of time looking back at the championship games over the last couple of years. We had leads in both games, obviously lost both of those late on the road, really succumbed to the momentum swings and things that were disappointing for me and the program," said U of M Head Coach Mike Norvell. "We try to plan everything from January forward to prepare for this moment, and there were a lot of things that showed up through the season, how we responded in games, how we finished games. Some of the adversity that showed up, and our guys always responded. To say that there’s been some big change, it’s been the same expectation from the first practice to this morning, our last regular season practice, we’re just trying to get better in every aspect.”
With a win, Memphis would not only beat the odds, but they’d also achieve a goal Mike Norvell has set since getting to Memphis -- winning the conference title and a trip to the Cotton Bowl for the first time in school history.
Kickoff for the AAC Title game is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl.