The AAC West division has proven to be a gauntlet through seven weeks with SMU the lone undefeated team left (7-0, 3-0 AAC). Memphis (6-1, 2-1 AAC) bounced back from its first loss of the season with a blowout win versus Tulane last week, improving to 2-1 in AAC play, which ties them with the Green Wave for third place in the AAC West standings -- a half-game behind Navy (5-1, 3-1 AAC).
Tigers' RB Gainwell makes history in win vs. TulaneMemphis trounced Tulane 47-17 last week behind a career day by running back Kenneth Gainwell. Gainwell made history by becoming the first Tigers’ player and the first player in the FBS to gain 200 receiving yards and 100 rushing yards in a single game since 1997. Brady White also threw for 358 yards and five touchdowns to help Memphis improve to 6-1 on the season and 3-1 in conference play. White has now thrown for 1,884 yards, 18 touchdowns, and only four interceptions through seven games while completing 70.3 percent of his passes.
The Tigers’ victory boosts their chance of reaching a New Year’s Six bowl game. If Memphis wins out, it could have a chance to play in the Cotton Bowl, which is designated for the highest Group of Five team this season. However, they enter the week as the fifth-highest ranked Group of Five team, behind SMU, Cincinnati, Boise State and Appalachia State -- all of whom find themselves in the AP Top-25 Polls. The Tigers will play two of those teams (SMU and Cincinnati) and could leapfrog the other two (Boise State and Appalachian State) based on the strength of their overall schedule.
Gainwell has been making a name for himself in his first full collegiate season. The redshirt freshman running back has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games and now has 830 rushing yards to go along with eight scores on the ground. He’s also been a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, totaling 440 yards and three receiving scores.
Memphis will be dealing with some injuries heading into the week, especially on defense, where they will be without leading tackler Sanchez Blake. The Tigers’ safety is out indefinitely after suffering an injury in the first quarter against Tulane last week. While the injury was not disclosed to the media, Blake initially grabbed his left arm as he laid on the turf. The 6-foot sophomore leads the defense with 45 tackles and an interception. The Tigers’ defense has surrendered just 20.4 points and 345.1 yards of total offense so far this season.
Tulsa QB Smith remains the starter after five-turnover performanceTulsa looked to be on the up-and-up at the beginning of the month when it nearly upset undefeated SMU on the road. Instead, the Golden Hurricane suffered a stunning triple-overtime defeat and have yet to recover. They lost their third consecutive game last weekend to fall to 0-3 in AAC play, falling short 24-13 versus No. 21-ranked Cincinnati. Last week, the Golden Hurricane were victimized by five turnovers -- all of which were committed by quarterback Zach Smith, who finished with three lost fumbles and two interceptions on the day. Smith completed just 21-of-43 passes for 217 yards with no touchdowns in the loss. The offense has been particularly worrisome as of late, mustering a combined 30 points in the team’s last two games against Navy and Cincinnati.
All things considered, Tulsa’s defense actually played well last week against the Bearcats, limiting them to just 317 yards of total offense and 3.5 yards per carry. The Golden Hurricane enter the week allowing 31.0 points and 384.9 yards of total offense per contest. Stopping Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell will be a challenge for Tulsa’s defense, which comes in allowing 195.1 yards per game on the ground.
If Tulsa is going to pull off the upset this week, they will need better quarterback play from junior Zach Smith, who is fresh off arguably his worst game of the season last time out against Cincinnati. Smith has thrown for 1,861 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions with five of those coming in the last three games. Despite his recent struggles, Smith still has the confidence of his coaches and teammates, who have been impressed with his overall toughness. The junior quarterback has continued to get up after being knocked to the turf, which has happened all too often this season. Tulsa’s offensive line has surrendered 26 sacks (about 3.71 per game) already this season, which ranks 124th in the nation.
- Tigers are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
- Tigers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 conference games.
- Tigers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- Golden Hurricane are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Golden Hurricane are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 home games.
- Golden Hurricane are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games following a ATS win.