Mark Giannotto, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Less than 24 hours after clinching the American Athletic Conference West division title on Saturday, the Memphis football team was rewarded with another jump in the national polls.
The Tigers moved up one spot to No. 16 in the latest USA TODAY coaches poll released on Sunday and rose to No. 17 in the new Associated Press top 25 rankings.
Memphis has wins in nine of its first 10 games for the first time since 1963, and it’s only the fourth time since the school’s football program started in 1912 that the Tigers have a record of 9-1 or better.
This historic regular season will come to an end Saturday when Memphis faces East Carolina (3-8) on senior day at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The Tigers have already secured a spot in the AAC championship game for the first time, but the location of the game and their opponent on Dec. 2 is still to be determined.
“This team, they’ll always be remembered. That trophy will always sit on our shelves. Their picture will always be on our walls,” Norvell said after Saturday’s 66-45 win over SMU. “But at the end of the day, this was not the ultimate goal. We still have a lot in front of us.”
UCF (10-0) hosts South Florida (9-1) on Friday in Orlando. The winner will claim the AAC East division title and advance to face Memphis in the league championship game.
If UCF wins, it would serve as the championship game host. If USF wins and Memphis beats ECU in its regular season finale, the championship game would likely be played at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Since Memphis and USF did not face one another this year, the AAC’s tiebreaker procedures for deciding the championship game host stipulate the team ranked higher in the College Football Playoff rankings that wins its final regular season game will be the home team.
Both Memphis and USF enter this week with matching 6-1 conference records this year.
The Tigers were ranked No. 21 in last week’s CFP selection committee rankings, while USF remained unranked. The new CFP rankings, which is the poll the AAC would use if a tiebreaker is needed, will be released on Tuesday night.
UCF is currently No. 15 in the CFP rankings and Boise State of the Mountain West Conference is No. 25.
The highest-ranked league champion from a Group of Five conference automatically lands in a New Year’s Six bowl game. If Memphis were to win its final two games, it would likely earn that designation.