MSL’s Playing Hurt Podcast: SEC Bowl Pick’em Edition

SEC map

Join MSL and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports Desk host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during MSL‘s Playing Hurt Podcast.

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MSL’s Playing Hurt Podcast: Memphis to the Big 12 Edition

campus memphisJoin MSL and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports Desk host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during MSL‘s Playing Hurt Podcast.

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5 Reasons Why The Big 12 Should Add The University Of Memphis

big 12We might not have known who all would be involved, but we all knew conference expansion would pick back up some day.  Recent rumors have the Big 12 looking to add at least two more teams so that they can have a conference championship game and actually have “one true champion” (ignore this year’s PSA from the Big 12). The two teams that are believed to be on the Big 12 radar are Cincinnati and Memphis.

This move makes a ton of sense for everyone involved.  In fact, Memphis joining the Big 12 makes so much sense that I suggested it be done way back in 2011.

The basic points remain the same as to why the Big 12 should add the Tigers.  A strong fan base, good facilities, and marketability are all reasons why it is logical for the Big 12 to want a team like Memphis.

However, there are more reasons why they should want Memphis.  Here are Five Reasons Why the Big 12 Should Add the University of Memphis…

1). The Tigers have a football team on the rise.
In the past, one of the issues Memphis ran into during conference realignment was the fact that their football team was not up to snuff.  This is no longer the case, as finally the Tigers have a football team that is more than respectable.

They are Co-Champions of the American Athletic Conference and have an outside chance of making it to a “New Year’s Six Bowl”.  The job head coach Justin Fuente has done in three short years is truly laudable.  With coach Fuente leading the way this Tigers football program should remain relevant for several years to come.

One of the things that matter most in conference realignment is football, and now that the Tigers are good it is only logical that the Big 12 strike while the coal is hot.

2).  Mid-Southerners love college football and will support a quality team in a quality conference.
You might wonder why it matters if the Mid-South is full of passionate fans.  After all, passion and enthusiasm for college football is all over this great country.

The Mid-South is very similar to the Midwest, West Coast, and Southwest in that one “Power Five” conference dominates the college football landscape for the individual regions.  SEC football is all that Mid-Southerners care about, and it is clear to see why with the recent success of the conference.  Add to it the fact that the Mid-South is home to three teams that play in the SEC (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas) and you have a region that is as die hard as any in the nation.

The way fans in the area thirst for college football is unlike any other region and if the Big 12 adds Memphis they will get a piece of that fervor.  Sure SEC will still reign supreme, but there are enough die hard Tigers fans in the area for the Big 12 to gain a significant following and a get a substantial number of supporters.

3). It may not seem like it now, but Memphis has a good basketball program.
There is no doubt that football is the driving force behind conference realignment.  However, adding a university that has a basketball program as exceptional as the Memphis Tigers is a good thing too.

If you ignore this season’s struggles, you will see that Memphis is a program that has a slew of conference championships over the past decade, and the Tigers have only missed out on the NCAA Tournament once since 2003.  A basketball program like the one Memphis has can be another money maker for the Big 12, which loves raking in the doe.

The Tigers will also add more prestige to a conference that already has national powerhouse Kansas and several of good programs like Texas and Iowa State.

4).  Geographically, speaking adding Memphis will help connect West Virginia to the rest of the Big 12.
We all knew that travel was going to be an issue for the Mountaineers when the Big 12 decided to add West Virginia in 2012.  The Mountaineers are on the East Coast while most of the Big 12 sits in the Southwest. The nearest conference foe to West Virginia sits two states away across Kentucky and Missouri into Kansas.

That type of travel can really wear down an athletic department’s budget.  It also annoys coaches, athletic directors, and players as well.

With the addition of both Memphis and Cincinnati to the Big 12 the conference can split into two division like the rest of the “Power Five” conferences. One can only assume the Tigers, Bearcats and Mountaineers would comprise the East Division of the Big 12.  A Big 12 East will certainly cut down on the travel that West Virginia has to do and allow for a healthier Big 12.

5).  Adding Memphis will give the Big 12 another top 50 media market.
The Big 12 has a television deal worth 2.5 billion dollars through 2025, which is not too shabby.  However, there is always more money to be had and adding yet another top 50 media market will help the conference get more doe when time comes to negotiate another television deal.

As it stands right now there are five top 50 media markets in Big 12 territory.  They are Austin, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.  If you have not noticed, all but one of these media markets reside in Texas.

Bringing in Memphis will give the conference yet another top 50 media market, while simultaneously increasing its footprint in another part of the country.  The Big 12 will no longer be so dependent on the Texas schools to carry the burden of marketability from a media perspective.  This diversity in markets will certainly equate to more dollars when the next television contract comes up.

SEE ALSO:


CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him 
@conradicalness for live tweets from games.

MSL’s Playing Hurt Podcast: University of Memphis Football AAC Championship Edition

fuente gatoradeJoin MSL and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports Desk host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during MSL‘s Playing Hurt Podcast.

MemphiSport Live

Week 15 TAM Rankings: Big Win in Egg Bowl for Rebels Moves Them to First

ole miss helmet blueWhat a bounce back week for the Rebels of Ole Miss.  After the most disappointing performance of the season, Ole Miss knocked off in-state rival Mississippi State to win the Battle for the Golden Egg.  Thanks to Jaylen Walton’s career high 148 yards on the ground, the Rebels were able to salvage a season that appeared to be taking a turn for the worst.

Mississippi State ends their remarkable season with back to back SEC losses, and cannot lay claim to a SEC West Co-Championship.  The loss also means that the Bulldogs have to share the top spot in this week’s ranking with their arch nemesis.

Memphis won this week making them American Athletic Conference Champions (Let that sink in.  This is the Tigers first football conference championship since 1971.)

Arkansas failed to get their third straight conference win as they fell to Missouri despite leading for most of the game.

Tennessee held on to beat rival Vanderbilt despite only 92 passing yards.  The Vols managed to get three interceptions in route to their seven point victory.  Beating Vandy gave Tennessee six wins and made them bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.  Vanderbilt managed to lose all of their conference games for the first time since 2009.

MTSU fell to UTEP this week making it the Blue Raiders third lost in their last four games, while Arkansas State snapped their two game losing streak by blowing out New Mexico State.

Southern Mississippi made history this week in their loss to UAB.  The Blazers have fired their AD and are eliminating all sports programs so the Golden Eagles will go down in history as the last football team UAB beat.

No TAM teams are playing this week so there is no TAM Game of the Week.

Next up for the TAM teams is bowl season.  Bowl season is going to be a blast as seven of the nine TAM teams are bowl eligible this year.

Without further ado, here are week fifteen’s TAM Rankings…


The Mid-South is full of fans with allegiances to different area 
college football programs. Which FBS program in the three states surrounding the Memphis area is the best? To help end some arguments and start others, every week MemphiSport ranks all the college football teams in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. We call it the TAM Rankings.

T1. Mississippi_State_Bulldogs logoMississippi State (10-2):
Last Game: 
L 31-17 vs. Ole Miss @Vaught Hemmingway Stadium
Best Win: 
38-23 vs. Auburn @ Davis Wade Stadium
Worst Loss: 31-17 vs. Ole Miss @Vaught Hemmingway Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams:
 2 (Southern Miss and Arkansas)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

T1.  ole_miss logoOle Miss (9-3):
Last Game: 
W 31-17 vs. Mississippi State @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium 
Best Win: 
23-17 vs. Alabama @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Worst Loss: 31-17 vs. Mississippi State @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 3 (Memphis, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Mississippi State)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Arkansas)

3.   memphis-tigers logoMemphis (9-3):
Last Game:
 W 41-10 vs. UCONN @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Best Win: 41-14 vs. Cincinnati @ Paul Brown Stadium 
Worst Loss: 28-24 vs. Houston @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (MTSU)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

4.  Arkansas logoArkansas (6-6):
Last Game: 
L 21-14 vs. Missouri @ Memorial Stadium
Best Win: 
30-0 vs. Ole Miss @ Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Worst Loss: L 35-28 (OT) vs. Texas A&M @ AT&T Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Mississippi State)

5. University-Tennessee-Logo-2Tennessee (6-6):
Last Game: W 24-17 vs. Vanderbilt @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Best Win: 45-42 (OT) vs. South Carolina @ Williams-Brice Stadium
Worst Loss: 34-10 vs. Oklahoma @ Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Arkansas State, Vanderbilt)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

6. Arkansas State Logo 2Arkansas State (7-5):
Last Game: W 68-35 vs. New Mexico State @ Centennial Bank Stadium
Best Win: 21-14 vs Utah State (OT) @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Worst Loss: 55-40 vs LA Lafayette @ Cajun Field
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Tennessee)

7.   MTSU LogoMTSU (6-6):
Last Game: 
L 24-21 vs. UTEP @ Sun Bowl Stadium
Best Win: 50-47 (3 OT) vs. Western Kentucky @ Floyd Stadium
Worst Loss: 36-17 vs. Memphis @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams:
 1 (Southern Mississippi)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)

8.  Vandy LogoVanderbilt (3-9):
Last Game: 
L 24-17 vs. Tennessee @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Best Win: 42-28 vs. Old Dominion @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Worst Loss: 
 41-3 vs. Ole Miss @ LP Field
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss, Tennessee)

9.  Southern Miss logo 2Southern Mississippi (3-9):
Last Game: 
L 45-24 vs UAB @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Best Win: W 26-20 vs. Alcorn State @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Worst Loss: 12-10 vs. UTSA @ Alamodome Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 2 (Mississippi State and MTSU)

 

SEE ALSO:


CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him 
@conradicalness for live tweets from games.

 

 

 

 

Week 14 TAM Rankings: Arkansas Up Two Spots After Shutout Win Over Ole Miss

state gloveIt is time to give serious kudos to Coach Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks who notched their second straight conference win after going 0-17 the past three seasons.  Arkansas knocked off Ole Miss, giving them six wins on the year and making them bowl eligible.  The Razorbacks took a page out of the book of the infamous Land Shark defense and forced six turnovers in route to their second straight shutout victory against a divisional foe.

Poor Ole Miss.  They had an outside shot at a SEC West Title and a chance to jump into the College Football Playoffs.  However, the loss to Arkansas eliminated them from SEC Championship contention and the fact it was 30-0 just added insult to injury.

The Bulldogs pitched a shutout of their own against a nobody this week and are going into the Egg Bowl with all the momentum on their side (Vandy is the nobody that Mississippi State beat.  Since Vanderbilt is so bad they only get a parenthesis not their own paragraph this week.  Sorry ‘Dores fans.)

Tennessee gave Missouri everything they could handle, but ended up falling just short.  The Vols need to win their final game of the season to gain bowl eligibility.  Thankfully they get the same nobody Mississippi State just beat 51-0.

Memphis won this week, keeping their hopes at an American Championship alive.  All the Tigers have to do is beat UCONN and they will at least a share of the AAC Championship.

MTSU snapped their two game losing streak by knocking off Florida Atlantic in the waning moments of their contest.  With that win the Blue Raiders have become bowl eligible.

Arkansas State suffered their second straight loss as they watched Texas State run all over the field.  The Red Wolves gave up 370 yards on the ground in route to their 18 point loss.

Southern Mississippi managed to escape defeat this week thanks in large part to the Golden Eagles bye week.

It is thanksgiving weekend and there is one obvious choice for the TAM Game of the Week, Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss.  The famed Battle for the Golden Egg has lost some of its luster thanks to the Rebels downfall, but Mississippi State can still get a share of the SEC West Championship and remain in the hunt for the College Football Playoffs

Without further ado, here are week fourteen’s TAM Rankings…


The Mid-South is full of fans with allegiances to different area 
college football programs. Which FBS program in the three states surrounding the Memphis area is the best? To help end some arguments and start others, every week MemphiSport ranks all the college football teams in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. We call it the TAM Rankings.

1. Mississippi_State_Bulldogs logoMississippi State (10-1):
Last Game: 
W 51-0 vs. Vanderbilt @ Davis Wade Stadium
Best Win: 
38-23 vs. Auburn @ Davis Wade Stadium
Worst Loss: 25-20 vs. Alabama @ Bryant-Denny Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams:
 2 (Southern Miss and Arkansas)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

2.  Arkansas logoArkansas (6-5):
Last Game: 
W 30-0 vs. Ole Miss @ Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Best Win: 
30-0 vs. Ole Miss @ Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Worst Loss: L 35-28 (OT) vs. Texas A&M @ AT&T Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Mississippi State)

3.  memphis-tigers logo Memphis (8-3):
Last Game:
 W 31-20 vs. USF @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Best Win: 41-14 vs. Cincinnati @ Paul Brown Stadium 
Worst Loss: 28-24 vs. Houston @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (MTSU)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

4.  ole_miss logo Ole Miss (8-3):
Last Game: 
L 30-0 vs. Arkansas @ Razorback Stadium 
Best Win: 
23-17 vs. Alabama @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Worst Loss: 30-0 vs. Arkansas @ Razorback Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 3 (Memphis, Vanderbilt, Tennessee)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Arkansas)

5. University-Tennessee-Logo-2Tennessee (5-6):
Last Game: 
L 29-21 vs. Missouri @ Neyland Stadium
Best Win: 45-42 (OT) vs. South Carolina @ Williams-Brice Stadium
Worst Loss: 34-10 vs. Oklahoma @ Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Arkansas State)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

6. Arkansas State Logo 2Arkansas State (6-5):
Last Game: L 45-27 vs. Texas Southern @ Bobcat Stadium
Best Win: 21-14 vs Utah State (OT) @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Worst Loss: 55-40 vs LA Lafayette @ Cajun Field
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Tennessee)

7.   MTSU LogoMTSU (6-5):
Last Game: 
W 35-34 vs. Florida Atlantic @ Johnny Floyd Stadium
Best Win: 50-47 (3 OT) vs. Western Kentucky @ Floyd Stadium
Worst Loss: 36-17 vs. Memphis @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams:
 1 (Southern Mississippi)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)

8.  Vandy LogoVanderbilt (3-8):
Last Game: 
L 51-0 vs. Mississippi State @ Davis Wade Stadium
Best Win: 42-28 vs. Old Dominion @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Worst Loss: 
 41-3 vs. Ole Miss @ LP Field
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

9.  Southern Miss logo 2Southern Mississippi (3-8):
Last Game: 
L 12-10 vs. UTSA @ Alamodome Stadium
Best Win: W 26-20 vs. Alcorn State @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Worst Loss: 12-10 vs. UTSA @ Alamodome Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 2 (Mississippi State and MTSU)

 

SEE ALSO:


CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him 
@conradicalness for live tweets from games.

 

 

 

MSL’s Playing Hurt Podcast: College Football Awards Edition

heisman trophyJoin MSL and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports Desk host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during MSL‘s Playing Hurt Podcast.

MemphiSport Live

Week 13 TAM Rankings: Mississippi State Remains No. 1 After Loss To Bama

state cakeIt was quite the weekend for our TAM teams, and we will start with Mississippi State.

The last unbeaten TAM team fell in Tuscaloosa on Saturday as the Bulldogs just did not have enough to knock off mighty Alabama.  Dak Prescott threw three interceptions in the loss to the Crimson Tide.  However, even with their first loss the Bulldogs remain the top team in the TAM Rankings.

Ole Miss now controls their destiny in their quest to be the best TAM team thanks to the Bulldogs loss.  A win this week versus Arkansas will set up a showdown of monumental proportions in the Egg Bowl.

Speaking of Arkansas, the Razorbacks finally got their first SEC win of Bret Bielema’s tenure.  The Razorbacks last SEC victory came against Kentucky October 13, 2012.

Tennessee also got a much needed win this week throttling Kentucky.  With their wins this week both the Vols and Razorbacks each need one more win to reach bowl eligibility.

Memphis won their fourth straight contest, keeping them in contention for the American Athletic Championship.  The last time the Tigers won four straight games was 2003 when some guy by the name of DeAngelo Williams was in the backfield.

MTSU suffered four costly turnovers and got outscored 21-7 in the second half in route to their loss to FIU.  While Arkansas State fell to Appalachian State all but ending their chances at a Sun Belt Championship.

Thanks to a bye week Vandy managed to avoid losing, but Southern Mississippi was not as fortunate falling to UTSA.

This week’s TAM Game of the Week belongs to none other than Ole Miss vs. Arkansas.  The Rebels are still in contention for a SEC West Championship, but they need to win out and get some help from other teams.  Arkansas is trying to build on their first SEC win in ages and become bowl eligible.

Only two weeks remain in the regular season and the TAM teams are ready to end the season on a good note.

Without further ado, here are week thirteen’s TAM Rankings…


The Mid-South is full of fans with allegiances to different area 
college football programs. Which FBS program in the three states surrounding the Memphis area is the best? To help end some arguments and start others, every week MemphiSport ranks all the college football teams in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. We call it the TAM Rankings.

1. Mississippi_State_Bulldogs logoMississippi State (9-1):
Last Game: 
L 25-20 vs. Alabama @ Bryant-Denny Stadium
Best Win: 
38-23 vs. Auburn @ Davis Wade Stadium
Worst Loss: 25-20 vs. Alabama @ Bryant-Denny Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams:
 2 (Southern Miss and Arkansas)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

2.  ole_miss logoOle Miss (8-2):
Last Game: 
W Presbyterian College @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium 
Best Win: 
23-17 vs. Alabama @ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
Worst Loss: 10-7 vs. LSU @ Tiger Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 3 (Memphis, Vanderbilt, Tennessee)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

3.  memphis-tigers logoMemphis (7-3):
Last Game:
 W 38-7 vs. Tulane @ Benson Field
Best Win: 41-14 vs. Cincinnati @ Paul Brown Stadium 
Worst Loss: 28-24 vs. Houston @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (MTSU)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

4.   Arkansas logoArkansas (5-5):
Last Game: 
W 17-0 vs LSU @ Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Best Win: 
17-0 vs LSU @ Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Worst Loss: L 35-28 (OT) vs. Texas A&M @ AT&T Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Mississippi State)

5. University-Tennessee-Logo-2Tennessee (5-5):
Last Game: 
W 50-16 vs. Kentucky @ Neyland Stadium
Best Win: 45-42 (OT) vs. South Carolina @ Williams-Brice Stadium
Worst Loss: 34-10 vs. Oklahoma @ Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: 1 (Arkansas State)
Losses Against TAM Teams: N/A

6. Arkansas State Logo 2Arkansas State (6-4):
Last Game: L 37-32 vs. Appalachian State @ Centennial Bank Stadium
Best Win: 21-14 vs Utah State (OT) @ Liberty Bank Stadium
Worst Loss: 55-40 vs LA Lafayette @ Cajun Field
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Tennessee)

7.   MTSU LogoMTSU (5-5):
Last Game: 
L 38-28 vs. FIU @ FIU Stadium
Best Win: 50-47 (3 OT) vs. Western Kentucky @ Floyd Stadium
Worst Loss: 36-17 vs. Memphis @ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams:
 1 (Southern Mississippi)
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Memphis)

8.  Vandy LogoVanderbilt (3-7):
Last Game: 
L 34-10 vs. Florida @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Best Win: 42-28 vs. Old Dominion @ Vanderbilt Stadium
Worst Loss: 
 41-3 vs. Ole Miss @ LP Field
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 1 (Ole Miss)

9.  Southern Miss logo 2Southern Mississippi (3-8):
Last Game: 
L 12-10 vs. UTSA @ Alamodome Stadium
Best Win: W 26-20 vs. Alcorn State @ M.M. Roberts Stadium
Worst Loss: 12-10 vs. UTSA @ Alamodome Stadium
Wins Against TAM Teams: N/A
Losses Against TAM Teams: 2 (Mississippi State and MTSU)

 

SEE ALSO:


CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him 
@conradicalness for live tweets from games.

 

 

MSL’s Playing Hurt Podcast: Memphis Tigers Bowl Destination Edition

tiger bleed 1

Join MSL and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports Desk host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during MSL‘s Playing Hurt Podcast.

MemphiSport Live

Five Reasons Why Memphis Football Will Win The AAC Championship

No. 40 Alan Cross of the Memphis Tigers celebrates with quarter back No. 12 Paxton Lynch after rushing for a 1 yard touchdown against SMU.  Cross leads the Tigers in receiving touchdowns with three on the year including one for 50 yards.  The University of Memphis football team is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008.   (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

No. 40 Alan Cross of the Memphis Tigers celebrates with quarter back No. 12 Paxton Lynch after rushing for a 1 yard touchdown against SMU. Cross leads the Tigers in receiving touchdowns with three on the year including one for 50 yards. The University of Memphis football team is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

For the first since 2008, the University of Memphis is bowl eligible.  It was a long and arduous path back to bowl eligibility for the much beloved Tigers full of embarrassing losses, a coaching change, and a jump (albeit for one year) to a BCS automatic bid conference.

The Tigers have gone 12-48 since their last trip to a bowl six years ago, but they are currently 6-3 on the year and Memphis fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Yet why merely settle for bowl eligibility?  This team should set their sights on something much more significant, a conference championship.

This was unexpected to say the least, especially since the Tigers are in just their second season of the American Athletic Conference.  With the Cougars loss to Tulane, all Memphis has to do is win out and they will get at least a share of the American Championship.

A conference championship would be historic for a Memphis program that last one a championship as a part of the Missouri Valley Conference way back when.

Five Reasons Why the Tigers Football Team Will Win the American Athletic Conference Championship:

1.  Favorable schedule down the stretch
To say the Tigers have an easy final three games of the year is disrespectful to USF, UCONN, and Tulane.  After all, they have scholarship players like Memphis and pride on the line also.  However, compared to the opponents Memphis had to start the year (Ole Miss and UCLA especially), the final three games of the year are, for lack of a better word, easy.

The Huskies and Tulane sit at the bottom of the American standings, and the Tigers final three opponents are a combined 9-19.

Not only is Memphis facing three overmatched teams, 2 of those games are at home.  The schedule could not be set up better for a six gamewin streak to end the year, and a conference championship.

2.  No UCF or East Carolina on the schedule
The scheduling gods really favored Memphis this year allowing the Tigers to avoid two of the best teams in the American.

The Pirates of East Carolina are ridding the nation’s third best passing attack all the way to an impressive 6-2 record, and had it not been for five turnovers in Philadelphia, ECU would still be undefeated in conference play.

UCF sits at 5-3 with respectable losses to Penn St. in Dublin by two points, and a Mizzo team that currently sits atop the SEC East.  The Knights were bitten by the turnover bug much like ECU, surrendering four turnovers in route to their only loss in AAC play.

Since Memphis currently holds the tie breaker over Cincinnati (who also only has one loss), and avoids both ECU and UCF, should the Tigers win out they are guaranteed at least a share of the American Conference Championship.  By the way, ECU and UCF play at the end of the year so one of them is guaranteed to lose one more game.

3.  The Tigers run game seems to be unstoppable
It has been a while since we have seen the University of Memphis field an offense this potent.  This is an offense that is currently fourth in the American in passing yards per game (240.7 ypg) thanks to the maturation of Paxton Lynch.

However it is the Tigers ground game that is proving to be among the best in the nation.  Memphis currently leads the conference in rushing with 192.2 ypg.  That is quite the feat considering that Memphis only managed 23 rushing yards against Ole Miss earlier in the season.  If you ignore that particular game the Tigers average rushing yards per game jumps to 213.4 ypg.  Brandon Hayes leads the way for Memphis with his burst and power averaging 102.3 ypg on the ground.  Opponents will have their hands full trying to stop Hayes the rest of the season.

4.  Defense is really stepping up
If the old saying is true, and defense really does win championships, the Tigers are in stupendous shape.  They have given up three touchdowns in a game just four times, and one of those was during the Tulsa game with the backups in.   Two of the teams to score at least three touchdowns on this tenacious Tigers defense are currently ranked in the top 20 of the College Football Playoff Rankings (No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 18 UCLA).  Memphis is allowing opponents to score just under 19 points per contest which is good for 13th best in the nation.

The Tigers are second in the American in tackles for loss thanks in part to star linebacker Tank Jakes’ 12 tackles for loss on the season (also good for second in the American).   Their ability to get penetration and make plays behind the line of scrimmage is the main reason why Memphis sits third in the American in both passing and rushing yards allowed and second behind East Carolina in total yards allowed.

Should this defense continue to wreak havoc in opponents backfields offenses will continue to have a rough time scoring, and we all know that if you cannot score you cannot win.

5.  Justin Fuente
The job head coach Justin Fuente has done since taking over in 2012 is truly remarkable.  He inherited one of the worst programs in the nation and all he did was lead them to three straight wins down the stretch of his first season, giving the Tigers a .500 record in conference for the first time since 2008.

Then, right in the midst of his rebuilding efforts, Memphis made the jump from an easier Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference, no easy task for a team that was as inexperienced as Memphis.

Even though the losses continued to pile up, fans saw signs of improvement.  Fuente had the Tigers within striking distance going into the fourth quarter much of last year, which is something people were not accustomed to seeing.  In fact, in three of the Tigers losses last season, Memphis was either leading or tied at some point in the fourth quarter.

This season Coach Fuente has gotten the program to turn the corner as is evident by the way they played on the road against UCLA and Ole Miss early in the year.  Memphis almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college football season, but did not have enough to knock off the bruins in Pasadena.  The Ole Miss contest was a one possession game until the Rebels pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Fuente is proving that he is one of the best up and coming coaches in the sport, and has this team believing in themselves.  More importantly, he has the Tigers on the precipice of a conference championship, which is something nobody saw coming.

SEE ALSO:


CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him 
@conradicalness for live tweets from games.