The final Tiger Walk of the season coming in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship game reflects a year of success for a University of Memphis football team with big-time goals still to achieve.
In a rematch of the regular-season finale (won by Memphis), the Tigers host the University of Cincinnati in a 2:30 p.m. start today at Liberty Bowl Memorial stadium.
The head coaches – Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Memphis’ Mike Norvell – fielded media day questions at the stadium on Friday afternoon.
The winner of the game will have a argument for being the highest-ranked team amongst the “Group of Five” teams and get the automatic bid to go to the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers enter the championship at No. 17 in the college football playoff rankings while Cincinnati is ranked 20th.
Looming large as a backdrop for the Tigers is the possibility/likelihood that Norvell may be coaching in his last game for the University of Memphis and heading to a team (Florida State?) in one of the Power Five conferences team.
The AAC championship game is familiar territory for Norvell. This will be his third consecutive championship opportunity and the first one hosted by Memphis.
“It’s been a special journey,” Norvell said about the progress of his career at the UofM. “From the first day I got the job to where we’ve been able to build and progress to. There have been so many highlights.
“This year has probably been the most rewarding of all of them, just with the circumstances that have shown up.”
The matchup features a rare occasion in college football where two teams play one another in back-to-back weeks. The only team to have faced such a situation and won both games was the 2012 Stanford Cardinal team that defeated the UCLA Bruins.
The Tigers held off the Bearcats 37-27 last week at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, earning the right to host the championship.
“I tried to remind the players Sunday — and every day we practiced — that 90 percent of the college football teams would trade places with them, to have the opportunity to play in a championship game,” Fickell said.
“It’s an incredible honor. It’s hard to step back and think about it and appreciate what an opportunity … when you have quite a task in front of you.”
The final Tiger Walk of the season will start at noon in front of the fountain at the end of Tiger Lane.
- The game will be shown nationally at 2:30 p.m. on ABC.
- This is the fourth time this year that the Tigers have played a game on ABC. Memphis has a perfect record to date (3-0).
- The final college football rankings will be released at 11 a.m. on Sunday.