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Bulls' title hopes hinge on Temple collapse

USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox (89) and the Bulls must win out and hope for a Temple loss for a realistic shot at winning the American Athletic Conference's East Division.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox (89) and the Bulls must win out and hope for a Temple loss for a realistic shot at winning the American Athletic Conference's East Division.

7

November

Stash all your scenarios and mathematical extrapolations. For USF and -- to a lesser extent -- UCF fans, hope is probably more useful than hypotheses.

This year, the only sequence that still can propel the Bulls into the American Athletic Conference title game involves a Temple meltdown.

Entering the regular season's final three weeks, Temple (7-3, 5-1 AAC) leads the East Division by a half-game over USF (7-2, 4-1) and a game and a half over UCF (5-4, 3-2). In reality, though, the margin is wider because the Owls have defeated the Bulls and Knights, and holds the division tie-breaker advantage.

The Owls still play at Tulane (Nov. 19) and at home against East Carolina (Nov. 26). If they win both (Tulane and ECU have a combined one conference win), they win the East. If they lose once and the Bulls win out (against Memphis, SMU and UCF), USF wins the East and hosts the AAC championship game Dec. 3.

No other scenario seems plausible. But for the sake of surreality, we'll explore a couple.

Suppose Temple, UCF and USF all finish with two losses: The Owls still advance to the title game (site TBD) because they defeated the other two. And if Temple loses its last two? The Knights-Bulls game at Raymond James Stadium on Nov. 26 could be for the division title, presuming the winner has two or fewer conference losses.

INJURY UPDATE: Bulls coach Willie Taggart said Monday he's hopeful PK Emilio Nadelman (quad) will be available for Saturday night's game at Memphis. "I'll know more later on this week," he said. Nadelman exited late in the Bulls' 52-45 win against Navy on Oct. 29. ... FS Devin Abraham had the pins removed from his surgically repaired thumb and practiced last week, Taggart added.

MEMPHIS MOMENTUM: While the Bulls will be coming off a bye week, Memphis will be coming off arguably its best game of the season, a 51-7 romp of resurgent SMU in Dallas.

The Tigers held SMU to 307 total yards (110 below the Mustangs' season average), while QB Riley Ferguson was nearly flawless (20-of-27, 287 yards, four TDs) en route to being named AAC Offensive Player of the Week.

Meantime, the defense forced three turnovers -- one more than it forced in its two previous games combined -- while the offense committed none.

"Everything kind of came together," said first-year Tigers coach Mike Norvell, raised just outside of Dallas.

"We knew we needed to play a clean game, and if we could do that and really limit the mistakes, we felt very comfortable in what our team could do when presented with those opportunities. I thought that was the biggest thing."

ODDS AND ENDS: ESPN and CBS Sports confirmed they're exercising their six-day window for USF's Nov. 19 game at SMU, meaning kickoff time won't be announced until next weekend. ... Something to ponder: USF is favored by three at Memphis, and while Nadelman's quad is ailing, Tigers veteran PK Jake Elliott is coming off a 15-point game (including field goals of 43, 44 and 31 yards) at SMU. ... Memphis remains one of three AAC teams the Bulls haven't defeated in the Taggart era. Houston and Tulane are the others, but USF never has played Tulane.

[Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2016 1:34pm]

    

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