The stakes are simple for Memphis in its season finale.
The Tigers (5-6, 2-5) need to beat visiting Tulane (2-9, 1-6) in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday night in order to become bowl eligible.
"We're not going to beat a dead horse," coach Ryan Silverfield said. "We don't want them playing scared. We know we've got to win this game but they've got to go out and play football."
A bowl bid seemed like a sure thing when the Tigers got off to a 3-0 start. Even after losing four of five they reached the threshold of eligibility by beating SMU 28-25 on Nov. 6.
But consecutive losses to East Carolina at home (30-29, in overtime) and at Houston (31-13) have put them in this win-or-stay-home situation.
"Whenever you're thinking of a game as your last game of the season, you're going to put your body on the line," quarterback Seth Henigan said. "You're going to do everything in your power to get that first down, get that touchdown. Whatever it takes."
No matter what happens Saturday, the Green Wave's school-record streak of three consecutive seasons with bowl berths is coming to an end.
But Tulane got its first victory in 10 weeks and its only one against an FBS opponent this season when it routed South Florida 45-14 in its home finale last Saturday.
"Everybody needed it," coach Willie Fritz said. "My coaches, players, my wife, I think we all needed one. It's been a tough year."
It was also Tulane's only on-campus victory this season. The Green Wave's 69-20 victory against Morgan State on Sept. 11 was technically a home game, but it was played in Birmingham, Ala., their temporary home after Hurricane Ida.
"Early in the season we had a lot of adversity with the storm and being displaced and everything," defensive tackle Jeffery Johnson said. "It took a mental focus to get to where we were trying to go. Everybody locked into what they had to do."
Tulane has played much better defense during the last month. It held down Cincinnati, UCF and Tulsa, but the losing streak kept growing because the offense couldn't do its part. But it all came together against South Florida.
"It's not how you start," linebacker Nick Anderson said, "it's how you finish."
--Field Level Media