No. 18 Memphis beats No. 19 Cincinnati to set up rematch in AAC championship

Memphis is heading to the AAC title game. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Let’s do it again, Memphis and Cincinnati.

The No. 18 Tigers (11-1, 7-1) took down the No. 19 Bearcats 34-24 Friday to set up a rematch between the two teams on Dec. 7 in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game.

Cincinnati entered the game with the American East division clinched. Memphis, meanwhile, had to win the game to win the West. And the winner of the game got to host next week’s game. So the title game will be back at Memphis in eight days.

Tigers win third straight West title

What turned out to be the game-winning TD came with 13:22 left when Damonte Coxie caught a 46-yard pass from QB Brady White. The score put the Tigers up 27-17 and established an insurmountable 10-point margin.

Memphis went up 17-3 early against the Bearcats in the first half. But Cincinnati tied the game at 17-17 in the second quarter before Memphis kicked a go-ahead field goal before halftime. And despite getting close to the Tigers, Cincinnati never led.

The Bearcats (10-2, 7-1) cut Memphis’ lead to 27-24 in the fourth quarter but couldn’t capitalize. After Ahmad Gardner intercepted White with fewer than eight minutes to go Cincinnati punted on the next possession. Memphis then went 62 yards in six plays for another 10-point lead and wouldn’t be challenged the rest of the way.

Will the winner go to a New Year’s Six bowl?

Memphis is in the driver’s seat for a Cotton Bowl berth with another home win against Cincy as the top-ranked team outside the Power Five conferences. If Cincinnati gets the win in the second game, things get interesting.

No. 20 Boise State beat Colorado State 31-24 to move to 11-1 ahead of the Mountain West Championship Game, where the Broncos will play Hawaii. If Boise State wins, it’ll move to 12-1 and likely have a better case for the Group of Five conference spot than Cincinnati because of one fewer loss.

The AAC has been a better conference than the Mountain West, however. And that could push the committee’s thinking toward a two-loss Cincinnati in that scenario.

Ben Bryant started at QB for Cincy

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder missed the game Friday, though the school said he was dressed and available to play if necessary. That handed the start to backup QB Ben Bryant, who finished the game 20-of-32 passing for 229 yards and a touchdown and two interceptions. 

If Ridder is healthy for next week’s game, expect that he’ll be the team’s starting QB like he has been all season. He’s thrown for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions and is also the team’s third-leading rusher. 

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports

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