The Liberty Bowl Stadium will be the site of the 2019 AAC Championship game and the matchup looks to be extremely competitive. Memphis enters the game at 11-1 SU/8-4 ATS while Cincinnati is 10-2 SU/7-5 ATS. These teams met previously on the Friday after Thanksgiving and that could present some unique handicapping elements to this contest. We’ll discuss the implications of this in just a moment.
Cincinnati had been on a very impressive run until they lost to the Tigers on 11/29. They had won 9 straight games with the only loss coming to Ohio State but were handled by Memphis with relative ease 34-24 though the Bearcats did cover as +14 road underdogs. Here’s where the storyline gets a bit convoluted–starting quarterback Desmond Ridder missed the previous game against Cincinnati with claims of injury though it is listed as ‘undisclosed’ on the injury report. The word out of the Cincinnati football camp was that he was ‘less than 100%’ but there’s a strong likelihood that he wasn’t so much injured as he was ‘quasi-benched’ for poor decisions in recent weeks.
Freshman Ben Bryant got the start and played reasonably well. The team looked to respond to the quarterback change and exerted a decent effort in the loss. Bryant was 20 for 32 with a TD and 2 interceptions and finished with an almost identical QBR to his Memphis counterpart Brady White. The Bearcats’ loss did mean that they’d be on the road for the AAC Championship Game and here we are.
There’s a big storyline component on the Memphis side as well–head coach Mike Norvell is reportedly the top candidate to take over at Florida State. Norvell is young (38) and highly respected. Memphis has won eight or more games in six straight seasons including four under Novell’s watch. They’ve reached the AAC Championship Game in three straight years. He’s considered one of the best offensive minds in college football and that’s definitely what Florida State needs. What it means for Memphis is that this could very well be Norvell’s final game as head coach. Word around the campfire is that an announcement by Florida State could come as early as Sunday and were that to happen it would be unlikely that Norvell would coach in any Memphis bowl game.
Other than the time honored ‘quick rematch’ angle favoring the team that lost the previous game this pointspread is hard to figure. What has happened since 11/29 to justify a -9 line on this game when the previous matchup had Memphis as a -14 favorite? No new injuries on either side. Bearcats will move back to QB Ridder but he’s definitely not worth -5 points. The new line does reflect the margin of victory last time out and maybe the thinking is that will better split the action. In any case, it gives us a chance to take a superior Memphis team at a better price.