Louisville needs some help to reach another BCS bowl game, but it will also need to avoid extending an unusual losing streak.
The 21st-ranked Cardinals have lost their final home game in each of the last five seasons and will try to end that skid Saturday against Memphis.
Louisville trails UCF by a half-game in the American Athletic Conference and doesn't hold the tiebreaker because of a 38-35 home loss to the Knights on Oct. 18. UCF has three conference games remaining while the Cardinals (9-1, 5-1) will wrap up the regular season at the AAC's other second-place team, Cincinnati, on Dec. 5.
"We still have these two games left. You can only do what you can do," coach Charlie Strong said. "The reason why we're in the position we're in is because of what we did and nothing else.
"It's a good life lesson. Guys have to understand that adversity has hit. How are you going to overcome it? Are you going to continue to fight and compete? You can't lose sight of what you want to accomplish."
Louisville kept its hopes alive by pulling out a 20-13 win over visiting Houston last Saturday. Dominique Brown gave a boost to a stagnant Cardinals offense by rushing for a career-high 137 yards and scoring both of his team's touchdowns.
Louisville gained a season-low 332 yards against a team that ranks seventh in the conference in total defense. The Cardinals' next opponent is third in the AAC with 337.1 yards and 20.6 points allowed per game.
Memphis (3-6, 1-4) is trying to use its revamped defense to produce another strong finish to a season. The Tigers have allowed a combined 16 points in back-to-back victories and held South Florida out of the end zone until the final minute of a 23-10 road win last Saturday.
Junior defensive back Bobby McCain had three interceptions, including one he returned 36 yards for a touchdown during his team's 17-point fourth quarter.
Memphis won its final three games to finish 4-8 in coach Justin Fuente's first season, but it has dropped its last 13 against ranked opponents since a 21-17 victory over No. 6 Tennessee on Nov. 9, 1996.
"We have a humongous challenge this week with a very good football team and a very good football program," Fuente said. "(Louisville has) some really special skill kids and a fantastic quarterback that can hurt you both running and throwing the ball. I think our kids will look forward to preparing this week."
The Tigers will try to end that drought by sending Louisville to another loss on senior day. The Cardinals fell 23-20 to Connecticut last Nov. 24 after winning their first six home games but made it to the Sugar Bowl, where they upset No. 4 Florida.
The Cardinals got some help last season en route to winning the Big East title with Pittsburgh's win over Rutgers on Nov. 24. They also needed some assistance to make their only other BCS bowl appearance in 2006 after losing to the Scarlet Knights in November.
"We're only going to worry about what we can control. We have to focus on ourselves," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "We still have a season and something to play for so we're not paying attention to that at all. It is college football and anything happens."
Louisville is facing Memphis for the first time since a 56-0 home rout Oct. 9, 2010, and perhaps the final time as a conference opponent. The school is slated to join the ACC next season and recently agreed to pay the AAC an $11 million exit fee.
The Cardinals hold a 23-19 lead in the series and have won 15 of the past 18 matchups, including three in a row. The Tigers did earn a victory in one of their past two trips to Louisville, 37-7 on Nov. 15, 2003.
Top 25 Overview
In order to reach another BCS bowl, Louisville must win its last home game of the season -- something it hasn't been able to do in the past five seasons. However, the stakes are especially high this year, as the Cardinals trail UCF by a half-game in the American Athletic Conference and do not hold the tiebreaker, due to their loss to the Knights. Memphis will certainly pose a challenge, as its revamped defense has allowed only a combined 16 points in the past two victories for the Tigers.