The Memphis Tigers finished their 2019 football season on a high note when they posted their best campaign in program history. The Tigers finished the year with a 12-2 record along with winning the American Athletic Conference title. They were awarded a trip to their first-ever New Year’s Six bowl game due to having the best overall record out of all Group of Five teams.
Even though Memphis did not get the result that they were looking for when they lost to Penn State 39-53, there’s still a lot to be proud of going forward. Except for Antonio Gibson, the program is returning most of its stars that were key contributors from last year’s AAC championship run.
By having impact players such as Brady White, Kenneth Gainwell, and Damonte Coxie returning this season, expectations will be high in 2020. Sports Talk 365’s Memphis Tigers Section examines four games that will make or break their season in 2020. If they lose three out of the four games listed, a back-to-back quest for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance could be out of reach.
1. UCF: October 16, 2020
Outside of the Memphis Tigers, the UCF Knights are considered one of the premier programs within the AAC. Last season, they did not have the type of year that everyone has expected them to have every year. However, they still managed to finish the season with a 10-3 record and placing second place in the now defunct America East Division.
The last time the Tigers face the Knights, it was a scoring affair in which they lost 56-41 in the 2018 AAC Championship Game. During that same year, Memphis lost by a point to UCF at home by a score of 31-30. When these two face each other in the Liberty Bowl this season, you can expect another gut-wrenching finish.
Photo courtesy of Justin Ford.
2. Cincinnati: October 31, 2020
The Memphis Tigers had to go through the Cincinnati Bearcats in back-to-back matchups to get where they wanted to go last season. Both games were close, but the Tigers would prevail in the end. This time around, the game will be on the road in Cincinnati.
Both programs have the firepower necessary to light up the scoreboard. In the October 31st matchup against the Bearcats, it will be up to the Tigers to continue their winning streak against this program.
Outside of UCF, the contest on the road against Cincinnati could be Memphis’s tightest game. It’s going to be challenging to defeat a team on the level of Cincinnati for a third consecutive time. However, Memphis has the personnel to make it come to past.
3. SMU: October 1, 2020
The game against SMU is when the Tigers put the college football world on notice in regards to how dangerous they can be in big games. It was also ESPN’s first-ever College Football GameDay appearance in the city of Memphis. Fans throughout the entire town flocked to the Liberty Bowl to witness a historical scene for this program. The Tigers were playing on the coveted Saturday night prime-time slot on ABC.
Memphis would not disappoint their fan base; they defeated SMU 54-48. The rematch will be played in Dallas, Texas. Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes will have the team motivated to avenge last season’s loss against Memphis.
4. Navy: November 14, 2020
The triple-option scheme has been known to give the Tigers defense trouble over the years. But last season, Memphis was able to slow down the effectiveness of what it can do in football games. The rematch in Annapolis, Maryland, will be no different. The prime objective for the Tigers will be plain and simple. They need to slow down the triple-option and take advantage of the Midshipmen’s mistakes, and they shall be victorious once again.
These are the four matchups that will make or break the Memphis Tigers 2020 football season. Fans should not be concerned about the game against Purdue that will take place at the beginning of the season. Even if they lose that game, there’s still a chance of advancing to a New Year’s Six bowl contest. However, the margin for error gets smaller as the season progresses.
Photo courtesy of Justin Ford.