Tommy Tuberville's Bearcats must win out if they wish to salvage a bowl invite out of this season
The Memphis Tigers look to keep the offense clicking on the road this Friday night when they take on a Cincinnati team that could be limping to the finish line of the 2016 season. Memphis can put Cincinnait's bowl hopes out of reach entirely with a win, while also clinching a winning season for a third straight campaign. It has been about a decade since the last time that happened.
Memphis at Cincinnati
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Memphis -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Memphis offense taking flight over opponents
No Paxton Lynch? No problem for Memphis, apparently. The Tigers bring the No. 2 passing offense in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to the field Friday night. Riley Ferguson has stepped in nicely as the leader of the Tigers’ offense, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,896 yards and 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions on the year. Having Anthony Miller as a target has helped. Miller has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season with 1,077 and eight touchdowns. Cincinnati poses a mild threat to the Memphis air attack, with just 13 TD passes allowed this season and 15 interceptions.
2. Can Cincinnati force Memphis to leave points on the field?
This season may not be going as well as Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville would prefer to see, but if there is one bright spot to hang a hat on it may be the Bearcats’ ability to force opponents to settle for field goals once entering the red zone. Cincinnati has allowed opponents inside the red zone 37 times this season but has allowed just 15 touchdowns. No other team in the AAC has a better defensive red zone touchdown percentage than the Bearcats. Memphis comes into this game with the third-worst red zone scoring percentage this season.
3. Cincinnati fighting for a bowl game
Cincinnati is in a must-win situation with two games to play in the regular season. A shot at the conference championship has long passed by, but a chance to go to a bowl game is still on the line. Cincinnati has to win its final two games of the season in order to reach the six-win minimum. Getting two wins will be tough with Memphis this week and then a road game at an improved Tulsa in the regular season finale.
There is no doubt which team has the better chance to win this game. It is Memphis with a much better offense that has been lighting up the scoreboard this season. Memphis has scored at least 40 points in a game four times this season, including 42 in a loss at Navy in the Tigers’ most recent game two weeks ago and 51 the previous week against SMU. Memphis should manage to score some points again this week, and may not need many to get a win. Cincinnati has scored six points total in the last two games, and has been held to fewer than 14 points in three straight games. That’s not a good trend developing for the Bearcats.
Prediction: Memphis 34, Cincinnati 20
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.