The Memphis Tigers beat No. 13 Ole Miss, which beat No. 10 Alabama. The Memphis Tigers. And it's not really that big of a surprise; Memphis plays in the mighty American Athletic Conference, after all.
This is Memphis' biggest win since its 1996 takedown of Peyton Manning's No. 6 Volunteers and its second win over a power-conference team this year, if we count Kansas as such. The Tigers are now 6-0 and would appear to be the clear favorite for the New Year's Six bowl spot automatically given to the top mid-major champ.
In a game featuring Ole Miss' many five-stars and likely first-round picks, Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch and his giant arm made a 384-yard case to join them. Rising star head coach Justin Fuente has now won 13 games in a row at a school that won a combined five in the three years before he arrived. Memphis' defense held Ole Miss to 40 rushing yards.
Memphis fans play air guitar shirtlessly on megaphones and mug at ABC's cameras in Grizzlies hats. You can listen to "Poppin' My Collar" and eat ribs. This is everything you'd want in a gate-crashing underdog. Okay, America, go ahead and fall in love.
Except, the thing is, the American has a whole bunch of other New Year's contenders.
No. 24 Houston, Navy and Temple have just the Midshipmen's loss to No. 14 Notre Dame between them. Memphis has to play all three, and maybe the Owls again in the AAC title game.
The AAC now has seven wins over power-conference teams. Ranked, based on how impressed I feel by them at the moment:
- Memphis 37, Ole Miss 24
- Temple 27, Penn State 10
- Houston 34, Louisville 31
- Cincinnati 34, Miami 23
- East Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28
- USF 45, Syracuse 24
- Memphis 55, Kansas 23
You can add the MAC's No. 22 Toledo to that mix, and whoever wins Georgia Southern-Appalachian State next week and Marshall-Western Kentucky in November could also contend. But with Boise State falling to two losses, the Mountain West's basically out of the running.
Right now, the favorite for the New Year's spotlight is whoever survives the American.
And don't sell this league short, either.
If someone makes it out of the AAC unbeaten, that team should go to the College Football Playoff.
We can speak to each other with great certainty about whether the committee would give the Tigers or one of their peers a shot, especially after that committee kept 10-0 Marshall unranked last year. But let's remember the Thundering Herd played a series of paper dolls last year, not Ole Miss and a loaded AAC.
Either way, it's not about what could happen if somebody goes 13-0 in the AAC. It's about what should happen if somebody goes 13-0 in the AAC.