Game Preview: American Football Championship
Host Jeremy Ganes and analysts Caleb Schweiger and Josh Portney take an inside look at each of the biggest conference championship games in college football this weekend.
Two of the more surprising teams in FBS face off this weekend in the American Athletic Conference championship, as the 20th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats travel to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to take on the 17th-ranked Memphis Tigers. These teams are very familiar with each other, as the Tigers defeated the Bearcats 34-24 just last week, with that game also being played in Memphis.
Cincinnati enters off the loss but has had an impressive season, nonetheless. The Bearcats come in 10-2 with the offense led by sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was sidelined last week due to an injured throwing shoulder. Ridder has thrown for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, but he’s also has been a problem for opposing defenses on the ground, totaling 432 rushing yards and one touchdown. His role in the Bearcats offense this week will need to be prominent if they want to take home the AAC title for the first time since 2014, when they split the title with UCF.
The Bearcats defense has been middle-of-the-pack this year. Cincinnati is allowing 21.2 points per game, which is good enough for 26th in the nation. However, the Bearcats are allowing 370.8 yards per game, which ranks 50th. With a subpar performance last week, letting up 34 points and 434 yards to Memphis, they will need a much better showing to win on Saturday.
The Memphis Tigers offense has been explosive this season, due in large part to junior quarterback Brady White. White totaled 3,307 yards and 32 touchdowns in the air, which puts him in the top 15 in both categories nationally. Last week against the Bearcats, White went 15-for-26 for 233 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. White is the reason that this team is 11-1 and is averaging 41.5 points per game. In terms of the run game, be sure to look out for freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell, who does exactly what his last name says. Gainwell is averaging 6.8 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns on the season and has had many spurts of long runs throughout each game.
The Memphis defense has hit some road bumps this season, allowing 41 points to Tulsa and 48 points to SMU in back-to-back weeks, but this is not something to expect from the Cincinnati offense. The Tigers also do not cause many turnovers, with only nine interceptions and five fumble recoveries this year. With Ridder back under center for the Bearcats, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers defense can handle almost a brand new attack from the same team just a week later.
It will be hard for the Bearcats to keep Brady White under control, as he showed to be a problem for them last week. The game should be much more competitive this time around, as last week, Memphis controlled the pace of the game throughout. However, Memphis just has too many options on offense, and the Bearcats aren’t equipped to score quickly and often, which is what they will have to do in order to compete in this championship game. When it’s all said and done, Memphis wins its first American Athletic Conference championship since 2014.
Prediction: Memphis 37, Cincinnati 24
Danny Murray is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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