Raise your hand if you knew that an early November game between No. 24 Memphis and No. 15 SMU would be such a big deal before the season started. Stop lying! It’s strange to think about, but it’s the truth. This is one of the biggest games of the weekend in college football, and could decide which of these two teams not only wins the American Athletic Conference West Division, but could launch one of them to a New Year’s Six berth.
There isn’t a lot of history between these programs. The first meeting took place in 1976, when Memphis beat the Mustangs 27-13. They would not meet again until 2007, but have met every season since 2011. Memphis has dominated the series for the most part, posting an 8-3 record overall, and enters this weekend’s game with a five-game win streak. Two of SMU’s wins in the series have come at the Liberty Bowl, however.
What should fans expect from this wild AAC showdown in Memphis? Let’s take a closer look at both teams in this matchup and make some expert picks, straight up and against the spread.
Memphis: At the risk of drawing a grammatical reprimand from UCLA coach Chip Kelly, Memphis controls its own destiny. The Tigers are 3-1 in conference play, but one of those three wins has come against Navy. That means if the Tigers beat SMU on Saturday night, they’ll have the divisional tiebreaker over both of their closest competitors within the AAC West.
SMU: With Appalachian State losing at home to Georgia Southern on Thursday night, SMU is the lone remaining undefeated team in the Group of Five conferences. That means the Mustangs are in the driver’s seat for the New Year’s Six berth, but in order to finish there, they have to win this game, and then the AAC. This will also be the team’s introduction to a national audience as they’ve mostly flown under the radar this season. Will the Mustangs be able to handle the additional pressure?
Date: Saturday, Nov. 2 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Liberty Bowl — Memphis, Tennessee
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
SMU has the better record in this matchup, but if you look past the records and at how these teams have played, there’s an argument to be made that Memphis has been the better football team this season. That’s not a knock on SMU, but Memphis has played well. It’s just made the mistake of losing a game. This should be a terrific contest, but in the end, I’m giving Memphis the edge thanks to what should be an electric home atmosphere in the Liberty Bowl. Plus, the status of SMU leading receiver Reggie Roberson is up in the air, and if he misses this game it will have an impact on the SMU offense, as he is its best big-play threat.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – College GameDay is in Memphis for Saturday’s American Athletic Conference West Division showdown between the the 23rd ranked Memphis Tigers and the 15th ranked Mustangs of SMU.
The party starts bright and early at 8 a.m. downtown on Beale Street as the stage is set for ESPN’s Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstsreit, Lee Corso and company to do their thing for three hours straight right here in the Bluff City!
“We’re fired up to get out here, we think it’s going to be a tremendous scene,” said Davis. “This is one of the iconic spots in the entire country and to have our show associated with it and to have a marquee game on Saturday night, it’s going to be fun!”
Desmond Howard says ESPN chose the Bluff City for a reason.
“Y’know, it’s not a charity case, we’re not here by accident,” he said. “Memphis has deserved this opportunity and we’re glad to put the spotlight on Memphis.”
David Pollack says this game will be one to keep an eye, much like other Tigers’ games–Saturday’s should be interesting.
“Never turn a Memphis game off, because you never know what’s gonna happen…good, bad, right, wrong, indifferent. Replays.. missed field goals, whatever’s gonna happen will happen,” said Pollack.
As far as the game is concerned, there’s only one loss between these two teams, both programs have risen from the ashes in the last few years to be considered among college football’s best!
“Awesome atmosphere we’re about to have, awesome opportunity,” said Tigers Quarterback Brady White. “And with that being said, I’m also just focused on the game. I’m not worried about all the outside stuff that comes up with the hype. I just know that it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
So it’s Memphis and nothing but Memphis all day Saturday on ESPN‘s GameDay and the Feature Contest on ABC. GameDay starts at 8 a.m. Kickoff for the Tigers and the Mustangs is at 6:30 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl.
With Memphis under the national spotlight, every security measure is being taken. Numerous law enforcement groups will be stationed all over the area from sunrise until sunset to make sure College GameDay and Memphis vs. SMU goes off without a single issue.
“This provides an opportunity for the nation to see what’s happening here in Memphis,” U of M Athletic Director Laird Veatch said.
In some cases, you’ll notice the security measures ahead of College GameDay — the security barricades that line Beale Street and the dozens of officers in the area are visible. But there will also be undercover personnel and details that the average fan won’t see.
“We have multiple events that happen in the downtown area, so our guys and girls are well versed for the plans we put into place in order to ensure public safety,” said Louis Brownlee with the Memphis Police Department.
Thousands of fans are expected to line Beale Street as the sun comes up, with ESPN’s College GameDay show starting live at 8 a.m. Central time. It’s a chance for the city of Memphis to make a great impression on a massive stage.
“Tomorrow everybody’s gonna be together, we’re gonna be on the same page, everybody’s gonna wear Tiger blue and support the home team,” Brownlee said. “We’re gonna look great on national television, and this is just going to open the doors for more opportunities for the city of Memphis.”
Law enforcement asks that you “pack your patience” if you’re headed to Beale Street or the Liberty Bowl on Saturday and remember why everyone is wearing Tiger blue in the first place.
“We just want everyone to come out, have a great time, and have Memphis look good in the national spotlight,” Brownlee said.