University of Memphis head football coach Mike Norvell was sitting the the coaches’ room watching film when learned via a text that the Tigers had netted the No. 25 spot in the latest Associated Press rankings.
“I said it won’t last long if we don’t win,” Norvell recalled responding. “The ranking is great for exposure for our team and university. At the end of the day rankings are rankings. It is someone’s opinion and that opinion will change based off of your actions.”
The Tigers’ win on Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium against Navy – then ranked No. 25 – was the first time that the UofM had defeated two Top 25 teams in the same season. The Tigers toppled UCLA earlier in the season. This is the fourth straight year the Tigers have defeated a Top 25 team at home.
The UofM’s next game action is Thursday against American Athletic Conference and Western Division rival Houston, with the Cougars playing host. The game is set for 7 p.m. at Texas Dow Education Credit Union Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.
The Cougars were upset last week, losing 41-17 to Tulsa . The Cougars were ranked in the Top 25 last season when Memphis upended them at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
New head coach Major Applewhite was the offensive coordinator under Tom Herman last season and he retained the offensive coaching philosophy. The offense of the Cougars has been problematic for the UofM Defense. The Tigers were ranked No. 21 in 2015 and had a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter when Houston rolled by them.
Gone from last season’s Houston team is quarterback Greg Ward Jr., an electrifying player that hurt opponents with his legs and his arm.
On what he expects from Memphis, Applewhite said, “A lot of the same guys are returning. The backs are great players, but they don’t get mentioned because the quarterback has thrown so many touchdowns. Miller has caught so many balls and made so many plays.
“They have a great stable of backs that can run the football, they’ve got a great offensive line and they do a great job up front,” he said. “As an offense, they’re very difficult to put your hands around because they can do just about everything.”
The Cougars will play both Kyle Allen and Kyle Postma at quarterback. Each has started three games and thrown four touchdowns. Postma is more of the dual threat. He has 115 net rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
The defense is led by defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
“I think he (Oliver) is the most impactful player in our conference and one of the most impactful in the country,” Norvell said. “He is one of the best players regardless of the conference. He is a phenomenal player. “
Houston’s 2015 win was over a previously undefeated UofM team that had climbed into BCS rankings and it started a three-game losing streak for the Tigers. With a victory on Thursday, the Tigers can get some revenge, continue the losing streak for the Cougars and set themselves up to potentially win the Western division of the AAC.
Note: Austin Hall, the sophomore defensive back from Collierville High School, was named the AAC Defensive Player of The Week for his performance in the victory over Navy. Hall had two interceptions, 10 total tackles and was credited with causing a fumble. This is the first time Hall has received the honor for the Tigers.