A few weeks ago, this Saturday's Memphis at Temple game looked like one of the top college football picks in Week 12 and a huge one in the American Athletic Conference. Now? Not so much.
Tigers Out Of West Division Race
Memphis (8-2, 4-2) has fallen out of the Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches Poll with back-to-back losses -- for a while there, it appeared the Tigers were going to be the Group of Five's representative in a New Year's Six bowl and the team to beat in the AAC.
Now the Tigers won't even win the AAC West Division. They are likely still kicking themselves from Saturday's 35-34 loss to unbeaten Houston. Memphis knocked out star Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. in the second quarter due to injury and led 34-14 early in the fourth quarter. But Houston backup QB Kyle Postma led the Cougars to three straight touchdowns. Memphis still had a chance to win, but kicker Jake Elliott pushed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide right with 19 seconds left. Elliott had field goals of 41 and 29 yards in the first half. He had been 5-for-5 on kicks from between 40-50 yards this season.
Memphis is the only FBS team this season to lose a game it led by at least 20 points in the fourth quarter. It dominated offensively most of the game with 490 yards, but two fourth-quarter turnovers proved costly. The Tigers ran 11 more plays (86-75), had six more first downs (26-20) and converted more third downs (12-for-19 compared to 6-for-15 for the Cougars) than Houston.
The Tigers trail Navy and Houston by two games in the loss column with two regular-season games to go and don't have the tiebreaker because they lost to both. Memphis junior QB Paxton Lynch, a likely first-round NFL draft pick in 2016 if he leaves school, was 20-for-31 for 278 yards, two TDs and a pick in the loss. He set a new single-season program record for passing yards, surpassing Martin Hankins, who threw for 3,220 yards in 2007. Lynch has 3,292 passing yards.
Memphis is 5-4-1 against the spread on college football odds and 6-4 'over/under.'
Temple Still Can Win AAC East
Temple (8-2, 5-1) also fell out of both polls this week. The Owls had a chance to clinch the AAC East Division on Saturday with a win over South Florida, but the Bulls pulled out a 44-23 upset in Tampa. USF used big plays on three of its four first-half touchdowns, with the other being set up by an interception returned to the Owls' 5. It was 31-10 at the half. Temple got within 31-20, but then USF got two field goals to put the game out of reach.
Jahad Thomas became the 10th Temple player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season during the game. He had 65 yards on 16 carries with a TD, his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, which ties him for No. 3 on the Temple single-season list. P.J. Walker became the second Owls quarterback (Henry Burris, '93-96) to pass for over 2,000 yards in three straight seasons, completing 20-for-48 for 259 yards and one TD.
The Owls still control their own destiny to play in the AAC title game against either Navy or unbeaten Houston. If TU wins this week and next against Connecticut then it wins the East Division. South Florida is a game back and obviously owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. Temple is 7-3 ATS on college football picks and 5-5 'over/under.'
In a scheduling quirk, Temple also hosted Memphis last year and the Tigers won 16-13 as Elliott kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired. The Owls had tied it at 13-all on a 46-yard kick from Austin Jones with 2:46 left. Lynch was 21-for-28 for 230 yards and a touchdown, while Mose Frazier caught eight passes for 110 yards. Brandon Hayes rushed for 72 yards and had a TD catch. Walker was 16-for-37 for 140 yards with an interception for Temple. Kenneth Harper rushed 17 times for 116 yards and a score. The Owls dominated time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 43 minutes. But they only had 298 total yards.
Memphis and 'under.' The Tigers are 4-0 ATS in their past four after a loss. The 'under' has hit in 21 of Memphis' past 27 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The 'under' is 5-2 in Temple's past seven at home.
College Football Picks: Memphis -1 & Under 63 at Pinnacle