AAC Championship a Three-Way Tie: Memphis, UCF, Cincinnati


It may be just a mid-major conference, but the American Athletic Conference provided us with by far some of the most exciting finishes to determine its champions this year. And it came down to the final weekend.

With no conference championship and not all of the teams playing each other, the AAC Championship became a three-way tie between the Memphis Tigers, UCF Knights, and Cincinnati Bearcats.

And were it not for two plays, the Tigers would have been the outright conference champions.

Dec 4, 2014; Greenville, NC, USA; Central Florida Knights wide receiver Breshad Perriman (11) celebrates his 4th quarter game winning touchdown pass against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Central Florida Knights defeated the East Carolina Pirates 32-30. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The excitement started Thursday night, when Central Florida converted on a 51-yard Hail Mary pass from Justin Holman to Breshad Perriman to squeak by East Carolina 32-30.

If that wasn’t enough for you, on Saturday Cincinnati almost blew a lead to Houston. Down 38-31, the Cougars went from their own 5-yard line to the Cincinnati 10-yard line, and it took an improbable stand by the defense to make sure Tommy Tuberville’s second team captured a share of the title.

One came down to an offensive miracle, the other came down to a defensive miracle.

But the miracle all season long was Justin Fuente’s Memphis Tigers.

Let’s not forget the sad state of a program Memphis football has been in ever since De’Angelo Williams left in 2005. The lack of resources, support from the administration, and ability to recruit left coach Tommy West with nothing, which resulted in his firing. Then, the Tigers decided to hire a recruiting coordinator in 2009 to a school where you can’t recruit. Yeah, that makes sense.

But with a new administration and athletic director coming on-board, the Tigers finally decided to throw some support behind football and hired a brilliant football mind in Justin Fuente to come in and coach up players he’s given.

And he has now done just that.

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The Tigers are in the midst of one of their greatest seasons ever and have won their first conference championship since 1971.

By the way, Memphis was a late-interception against Houston away from being undefeated in the conference, and remember that this team didn’t go 9-3 by running from scheduling. Their three losses are to Houston and then two Top 15 powerhouses, Ole Miss and UCLA. They also have impressive wins, including a blowout victory on the road against conference co-champion Cincinnati and against Middle Tennessee, who is 6-6.

It may not seem like much, but when you play UCLA and Ole Miss out of conference, you’re clearly not running away as a mid-major.

Nov 29, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers after the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis Tigers beat Connecticut Huskies 41-10. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, this team was lucky to avoid East Carolina and UCF in conference play this year, which is why they have to share the title, but they can’t help that.

Justin Fuente took a program at the bottom of the college football world where it is still impossible to recruit, and with the players he had, he has coached them up over three years and not run from anybody.

Now, this team is 9-3, and they are the story of the season in this conference. Heck, Memphis football is probably better than Memphis basketball. Who would have ever thought that?

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