ESPN ranks Memphis football as No. 1 Group of Five contender for College Football Playoff

It’s 100 days until the start of the 2024 college football season, and Memphis is getting plenty of buzz as a potential College Football Playoff contender.

That came in the form of ESPN’s rankings of “10 (Group of Five) teams that can make the Playoff,” which was released Thursday morning alongside other college football preview content. The Tigers were ranked No. 1, ahead of Boise State, Liberty, Fresno State and Appalachian State.

“If Boise State doesn’t have the most upside, Memphis does,” ESPN’s Bill Connelly wrote. “The Tigers have experience, too. Quarterback Seth Henigan and the receiver duo of Roc Taylor and DeMeer Blankumsee could lead a 40 PPG (points per game) offense, the defense adds 10 transfers, and Memphis could be favored in every game but its Week 3 trip to Florida State.”

The Group of Five will get more national attention this season because of the playoff expansion. The 12-team playoff will feature a guaranteed spot for a team from the Group of Five, so this is the first season in Memphis football history where the Tigers have guaranteed access to the playoff.

And it’s coming during what appears to be a high water mark for the program. Henigan and most of the offensive production from last year’s 10-win team will return. Coach Ryan Silverfield has brought in a slew of highly touted transfers, including South Carolina’s leading rusher in Mario Anderson and Tennessee’s leading tackler in Elijah Herring.

If Memphis is going to make the playoff, it amost certainly will have to win the American Athletic Conference first. Historically the top Group of Five conference, the AAC has only one other team on ESPN’s list: No. 8 Tulane. The Green Wave lost coach Willie Fritz to Houston, but new coach Jon Sumrall has brought in an impressive recruiting class highlighted by Oregon transfer quarterback Ty Thompson.

Boise State and Memphis have been the two most popular Group of Five playoff picks this offseason. The Broncos return superstar running back Ashton Jeanty and landed USC transfer Malachi Nelson, who was the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country in 2023. Memphis beat Boise State at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in 2023, but the two teams won’t meet again until 2026.

The Tigers kick off their season Aug. 31 against North Alabama.

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