Memphis lost at Navy and Tulane to start 2018. The Tigers have looked uninspired and inept in each. They are starting to play with Mike Norvell’s recruits and you can see them slipping as a program.
Norvell’s QB recruiting has been so bad that Brady White came in as a grad transfer from Arizona State and won the starting job. White completed 76% of his passes in 3 weak OOC games but has connected on just 52% in two AAC games. 12 of his 14 TDs have come in OOC play (and another in garbage time with Tulane leading 40-14). White looked totally defeated in the 2nd half against Tulane.
Here’s the hard truth: Memphis is already out of the American Athletic West picture.
At no time in the 5 year history of the league has a two-loss team won the division or, as is the case before division play, finished in the top 2:
Memphis is soft and has been dominated at the line of scrimmage by a service academy and a small private school. No bueno.
And Memphis still has UCF two weeks from today and must make the trip to ECU in early November. That game is a week after playing at Mizzou – ECU could easily be a letdown game. And, of course, the Tigers get UH on Black Friday in the Liberty Bowl. I could see a 4-4 league record for this team.
Navy is in a boat that could be taking on some water. They already have a conference loss to mediocre SMU and still must face Houston and go to Cincinnati (4-0) and UCF (4-0). They finish the season at Tulane in the last week of conference play. The Greenies have shown they are a tough-out at home. I could see another 2-3 losses out there potentially.
Navy’s two conference games were each decided by a point. The Middies forced 4 turnovers from Memphis to eek out a win and had 3 in the game vs. SMU and lost. Turnovers are the name of the game when facing Navy. In beating UH in 2016, Navy caused 3 Cougar turnovers.
SMU is 111th in scoring offense – they’ve scored just 86 points in 4 games. They are last in the country in 3rd down conversions, 122 in rushing offense, 103 in passing offense, and 123 in total offense.
Oh, and they are 124th in scoring defense. So they can’t score and they can’t stop anyone.
Their win over Navy (at home and in OT) was a fluke. They have QB issues, no running game and their next 4 AAC games are visits to UCF and Tulane then the Ponies host Cincinnati and UH. They could easily go 0-fer in October.
Tulsa is such an interesting team. You want to dismiss them for being bad (1-3, no FBS wins) but they stayed within 7 at Texas, 9 against Arkansas State and turned it over 5 times at Temple but lost by just 14.
To date, they’ve competed with pro-style offenses but we’ll see how they handle the super-charged Briles offense. I don’t know what to think about them but I’m sure I’ll know by Thursday night. I don’t expect them around come November 1, either.
Tulane is the most fascinating team in our league. They might have the least amount of talent but Willie Fritz gets the most out of his players. They are hyper-competitive at home (as UH fans can attest) but struggle on the road. The Wave are just 3-11 on the road in the Fritz era (wins over UMass and UConn in 2016 and ECU last year).
I don’t think they can compete for the division due to games at Cincinnati, South Florida, and Houston.
All of this is to say UH is in the perfect spot. The Coogs don’t play a conference game til Thursday (after Cinci’s game @ UConn today, every other AAC team will have played a league game). The Cougars have everything in front of them and control their own destiny. The Navy and Memphis road games can still be tricky, and ECU is a trap game waiting to happen, but the road is manageable.
Going forward, heere’s to hoping D’Onofrio chooses to go with the defense we saw against Texas Southern rather than what we saw vs Texas Tech.
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