The task seems simple - at least in theory - for No. 16 Memphis, which hosts overmatched East Carolina on Saturday in its American Athletic Conference regular-season finale. The Tigers, who already have clinched the AAC West Division title, must defeat the Pirates to ensure that a victory over Central Florida or South Florida in the AAC championship game on Dec. 2 lands them in a New Year’s Day bowl.
The highest-ranked team among non-Power 5 conference schools in the College Football Playoff rankings gets the major bowl bid. Memphis is ranked 20th while UCF is 15th and USF is unranked, so the Tigers likely would host the AAC title game if USF defeats UCF on Friday - provided it stays ahead of USF in the CFP rankings - or visit UCF since the Knights more than likely still would be ranked higher. “This team, they’ll always be remembered. That trophy will always sit on our shelves. Their picture will always be on our walls,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell told reporters after last week’s 66-45 victory over SMU. “But at the end of the day, this was not the ultimate goal. We still have a lot in front of us.” East Carolina is coming off a 48-20 triumph over Cincinnati but will finish with a losing record for the third straight season, mostly because of the second-worst defense in the nation at 42.7 points per game allowed.
TV: Noon ET, ESPNU. LINE: Memphis -28
ABOUT EAST CAROLINA (3-8, 2-5 AAC): Junior wide receiver Trevon Brown set the school and AAC record for receiving yards in a game with 270 last week - the second-highest total this FBS season only to Hawaii’s John Ursua (272 versus Massachusetts). Junior quarterback Gardner Minshew replaced senior Thomas Sirk and has thrown eight touchdown passes, including a career-high four versus Cincinnati, against two interceptions in starting the last three games. Sirk played tight end for the first time last week and made two catches for 21 yards.
ABOUT MEMPHIS (9-1, 6-1): Senior wide receiver Anthony Miller became the school’s all-time leader in career receptions (217) last week after already ascending to No. 1 in receiving yards (3,196) and touchdown catches (32). Senior quarterback Riley Ferguson is tied for sixth nationally with 29 TD passes - 13 to Miller - and his 3,201 passing yards also lead the AAC while being 13th in the country. Ferguson scored three of his six rushing TDs last week and complements a solid ground game led by sophomores Darrell Henderson (923 yards, six TDs) and Patrick Taylor Jr. (564, 10), who combined for 259 yards and four scores against SMU.
1. A victory gives the Tigers a 7-0 home record for the first time in school history.
2. Miller is second nationally in receiving touchdowns this season with 13, eighth in receiving yards (1,068) and eight in receptions (75).
3. Memphis has a chance to break the school record of 10 wins in a season, which it set in 1938 and matched in 2014.
PREDICTION: Memphis 54, East Carolina 24