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As AAC matchups begin, the Tigers conference title hopes are still within reach

After coming off an impressive victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Week 3, the Memphis Tigers hosted the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners of Conference USA. Many Tiger fans recognized the matchup against the Roadrunners as an opponent who would not have any issues with defeating.

The result was not what everybody was looking for, as Memphis dropped their first loss of the 2021 season. The Tigers were up 21-0 on the Roadrunners, but they fought back hard in the fourth quarter to eventually leave the Liberty Bowl with a 31-28 victory over the Memphis Tigers. Memphis’s vaunted rushing attack was no match for the Roadrunners’ rush defense.

After Saturday’s game, Memphis only ran for a total of 78 yards rushing against UTSA. “There’s a reason that they are tenth in the country in defense, and they’ve done a fantastic job stopping the run by every team they’ve played and did that today,” Memphis Head Coach Silverfield said.

Many local media members and fans could not understand why Silverfield wanted to remain committed to a rushing attack that could not find its rhythm on Saturday. The passing attack is what seemed to work against UTSA. Tight end Sean Dykes and wide receiver Calvin Austin combined for a total of 309 receiving yards and one touchdown score.

AAC Title Hopes Hit A Roadblock, But Not Completely Lost

The fanbase may be upset about how things transpired last Saturday, but what is done is done, and the Tigers cannot go back and change things. There is still a great opportunity in front of the Tigers to play for an AAC championship.

At the start of the season, we examined four games on the Tigers schedule that were recognized as potential tough matchups in 2021. So far, Memphis has knocked off three out of the four opponents that Strike 7 Sports recognized as challenging games for the team this season. The program that we are referring to is the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Tulsa is not what we thought they would be after coming off a successful 2020 campaign in which they finished as conference runner-up.

Conference rival the UCF Knights are off to a somewhat shaky start of the Guz Malzahn era. The Knights are currently in fifth-place in the AAC with a record of 2-1. However, they are without star QB Dillon Gabriel. The three-year starter is out indefinitely with a broken clavicle injury that he suffered against the Louisville Cardinals.

The loss of Gabriel plays into the favor of the Tigers when they face UCF on October 22 at the “Bounce House.” We shall figure out more on how the Knights will handle their quarterback situation as the season progresses. College Football Playoff contender and defending AAC champion, the Cincinnati Bearcats, are not on the Tigers’ schedule. So that’s a positive note that Memphis fans can take away from this defeat against USTA.

Not saying that the Tigers would fold up quickly in a matchup against the Bearcats, but having both Cincinnati and Houston on the schedule this season would lead to a difficult road for an AAC title game appearance. Especially after coming off a loss against a non-conference opponent in UTSA. This Saturday, Memphis starts the conference portion of their 2021 schedule. They will be on the road facing the Temple Owls. The route to the AAC title hit a snag last Saturday against UTSA, but all hope is not lost.

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Photo courtesy of the Commercial Appeal.

Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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