4. Memphis Tigers
Step 1: Whack Ole Miss. The Tigers were able to do it in 2015 with a dominant 37-24 performance, and they get the Rebels at home this time around, too. It’s the only game against a Power Five team on the schedule – it’s the showcase moment right out of the gate on August 31st. But to do that …
Step 2: Step up the pass defense. The Tiger secondary wasn’t totally miserable, and this year’s group should be fine, but it got hit a bit too hard at times last season. Ole Miss will come out throwing, but that’s going to be it for the high-octane passing games until November – with all due respect to Caleb Evans and the ULM offense.
Step 3: Don’t lose focus. There are just two 2018 bowl teams on the slate – Tulane and at Temple – in the first nine games. Navy will be better, ULM is sneaky-dangerous, and Tulsa will put up a fight at home. Of course to even think about going to the CFP, Memphis has to be unbeaten, but even with four road games in a six game stretch, the away date at Temple is the only real concern. And then …
Step 4: Get ready to rock the finishing kick. At Houston, at USF, Cincinnati. The massive plus about this brutal final stretch is that it’s tough enough to give the Tigers the respect from the CFP they’ll need.
Step 5: FINALLY beat UCF for the American Athletic Conference title. If it’s anyone else from the East, fine, but beating the Knights and getting over that hump after losing two straight AAC titles would make a much bigger splash.