No. 25 Memphis visits No. 16 Houston in AAC showdown
HOUSTON (AP) No. 16 Houston should be getting used this.
After a 33-30 win over Cincinnati last week, the Cougars host No. 25 Memphis in another big test with major implications for the American Athletic Conference race. The winner will also keep its hopes alive for a Group of Five bid in a Jan. 1 bowl game.
The Tigers (8-1, 5-0, No. 21 CFP) are coming off their first loss of the season Saturday against Navy, but Houston coach Tom Herman sees Memphis as a huge challenge, especially on offense.
Led by Paxton Lynch, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns against just two interceptions, the Tigers have scored 44.8 points a game.
''The offense they play at Memphis is similar to us,'' Herman said. ''You try to glean as much as you can from Tulsa, as they're split way out, and Cincinnati threw it sixty times that game, so their coverages are going to be a little bit different. I think you have to go back to the Ole Miss game and watch them; they're somewhat similar to us in style offensively.
Houston (9-0, 5-0, No. 24 CFP) had problems defensively stopping Cincinnati's air attack. Gunner Kiel threw for 523 yards and the Bearcats' offense totaled 589 yards.
Herman was not concerned with the Cougars' defense but more displeased with Houston's troubles on offense, specifically how the Cougars gave Cincinnati one last chance.
''Defensively it was fine; offensively, I think we took the ball over with 4 minutes and some change, and to be able to run the clock out, get a few first downs and take a knee (was good),'' Herman said. ''But we did get a first down on that series. They used their timeouts, which then made it a little more difficult for them to drive down the field. We had a really huge punt, downing it on the 14-yard line. (We) still have some work to do there offensively, but really happy with how the defense closed the game out.''
Despite the significance of the game, Houston is treating it like any other week.
''I feel the same way every week,'' Houston quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. said. ''We still prepare the same, and we prepare hard in practice, so it's just another week. Memphis is a great opponent, and we're ready.''
STILL STREAKING: Memphis' loss to Navy snapped the Tigers' 15-game winning streak, but they still have another streak alive. The Tigers have won eight straight on the road, the nation's second longest road streak behind only Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won 16 straight road games.
RANKINGS MEAN NOTHING: For Herman, the rankings don't matter. ''I appreciate the questions, and it's not to be standoffish, but in our program, where you are after nine games matters not. It really doesn't. We understand that there aren't any trophies, prizes or awards given for what you've done after nine games. It's the complete season that matters. Our goal has always been to win a conference championship, and we understand Memphis is the next step closer to getting that.''
TIGERS' D: Memphis will try to bounce back from giving up 374 yards and five touchdowns rushing to Navy, but Houston will be the fifth opponent for the Tigers ranked among the nation's top 15 offenses. Memphis beat Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Mississippi and Tulsa.
COUGARS' D: Houston gave up 589 yards to Memphis, its most yards allowed this season. The Cougars did intercept Kiel twice and recovered a fumble. The Houston defense leads the nation with a +16 turnover differential, with 25 turnovers forced.
WARD VS. LYNCH: Although they won't line up against each other, the quarterback matchup is intriguing. Lynch has thrown for 3,019 yards and 19 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Ward has rushed for 16 touchdowns, thrown for 13 more and has averaged 327.2 yards a contest.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org