MEMPHIS – The University of Memphis football squad has been bowl eligible for nearly a month, and Sunday afternoon, the Tigers accepted an invitation to play in the Dec. 20 Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla. The Tigers’ opponent in the Boca Raton Bowl is Western Kentucky from Conference USA.
The third-annual Boca Raton Bowl is set for a 6 p.m. (CT) kickoff, Dec. 20, from FAU Stadium on the Florida Atlantic University campus. ESPN is televising the contest.
The Tigers are making their first appearance in the Boca Raton Bowl and their third bowl visit to the state of Florida. Memphis also made trips to the Sunshine State for bowls in 2008 (St. Petersburg Bowl) and 2015 (Miami Beach Bowl). The Tigers are 1-1 in Florida bowls, winning the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl, 55-48, over BYU in double overtime and falling in the St. Petersburg Bowl to USF 41-14.
It is the third-consecutive season Memphis is playing in a bowl game, as the Tigers traveled to the Miami Beach Bowl in 2014 and Birmingham Bowl in 2015. It is only the second time in program history Memphis has played in three-straight bowls. The program’s first three-consecutive bowl stretch was from 2003-05.
Under first-year head coach Mike Norvell, the Tigers posted an 8-4 overall record and a 5-3 American Athletic Conference mark. Memphis tied for third in The American’s West Division.
The winning campaign was the Tigers’ third straight, which is the longest stretch of winning seasons since the program had five-straight winning ledgers from 1973-77. The past three seasons, Memphis has posted combined records of 27-11 overall 17-7 in the league. The 27 wins the last three seasons are tied for the 17th-most at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, and the 17 conference wins over that three-year period are a school record. The previous mark for most league victories in a three-year span was 15 by the 2003-05 Tigers squads.
Western Kentucky brings a 10-3 overall record and a 7-1 Conference USA mark. The Hilltoppers posted a 58-44 win over Louisiana Tech in the C-USA championship game Saturday. Western Kentucky tied Old Dominion for the C-USA East Division title, but earned the championship game berth with a 59-24 win over the Monarchs in the regular season.
Like Memphis, the Hilltoppers have been one of the winningest programs at the FBS level the past three seasons. Western Kentucky has 30 wins the past three campaigns, the eighth-most victories at the FBS level over that period of time.
The Tigers and Hilltoppers have played five times previously, and the series is tied at 2-2-1. However, the two programs last played in 1956. Four of the five encounters were played in Memphis.
Memphis has a history with the Hilltoppers program outside of the series. Western Kentucky’s head coach Jeff Brohm and co-offensive coordinator Brian Brohm both played quarterback at Louisville and faced some battles with the Tigers in their careers. Jeff’s career as a Cardinal was from 1989-93, and Brian’s was from 2004-07. Fellow co-offensive coordinator Tony Levine was the head coach at American Athletic Conference foe Houston from 2012-2014.