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Know Your Foe: Memphis Tigers

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These aren’t your momma’s Memphis tigers

NCAA Football: American Athletic Championship-Cincinnati at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

University of Memphis

Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Enrollment: 20,585

Memphis Football Facts:

Home Stadium: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (62,380)
Head Coach: Ryan Silverfield (0-0)
Conference: AAC
Conference Titles: 6 (Two in the AAC)
Overall Bowl Record: 5-7

Series History:

The Nittany Lions and Tigers have never met on the gridiron. However, the Nittany Lions all-time are 77-24-4 against current American Athletic Conference teams according to Winsipedia. Most of those games and wins have come against Temple and Navy. Comparatively, the Tigers are 0-4 against Big Ten teams all-time.

Last Season (8-6, 5-3)

The Tigers didn’t have nearly the same amount of success they did this season. But they’re success this season could be seen in the latter part of last season. After starting off 4-4 last season, the Tigers won four of their final six games of the season.

Recruiting and Offseason:

The Memphis Tigers put together the 67th ranked recruiting class in the country during the 2019 recruiting cycle which was the second best in the AAC only behind UCF. They also brought in four transfers during the offseason including three from power five programs.

What they did in the regular season: 12-1

The Tigers were nearly perfect during this year’s regular season with their only loss coming against the Temple Owls. The Tigers started their season off with a win over a Power 5 team be defeating Ole Miss 15-10 on their way to a 5-0 start before falling to the Owls. In the back end of their schedule they were able to pick up wins over a ranked SMU team and a ranked Cincinnati twice to win the AAC.

Offense:

An explosive offense, the Tigers averaged nearly 500-yards per game this season to go along with 40.5 points per game. The Tigers get the majority of their offense done through the air, averaging 284.5 yards per game but run the ball at a higher clip, approximately 56% of the time. Seeing how the Nittany Lions secondary was their weakness on defense this season, we expect the Tigers to favor the passing attack a bit more on December 28th.

Quarterback Brady White is the Tigers signal caller and he put together a strong junior season, completing 64.1% of his passes for 3,560-yards, 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His main target is junior Damonte Coxie who totaled 1,144-yards and nine touchdowns this season. In total, the Tigers had five players on offense with 20 or more receptions so they do spread the ball around quite a bit. However, the real x-factor will be in the Memphis backfield.

Running back Kenny Gainwell, however, may be the most important man on the Memphis offense to keep an eye. Not only is he dangerous on the ground, averaging nearly 110-yards per game (1,425 yards) but also dangerous in the passing attack. He has 44 receptions on the season for 532-yards and three touchdowns. With 43-yards against the Nittany Lions, Gainwell will surpass the 2,000 yards from scrimmage mark this season. A redshirt freshman he will get to return next year for the Tigers and will probably be a hot name you hear heading into next season.

If it’s not obvious by now, Memphis has had a pretty good offensive line all season, allowing the Tigers to run for nearly 200-yards per game while only allowing 1.62 sacks per game. It is worth noting that it has been reported that Memphis senior offensive lineman, right tackle Scottie Dill will sit out the bowl game. Dill’s absence could be a major blow to the Tigers offensive line to say the least. Could we see a big game out of Shaka Toney with Dill’s absence?

Defense:

While the Memphis offense is hard to stop, it hasn’t necessarily been hard to get past the Tigers defense. The Tigers have allowed 24.4 points per game this year and 372.3 yards per game. Their secondary has been rather strong throughout the season, only allowing 200-yards per game and totaling 10 interceptions, opposing offenses have been able to carve them up on the ground, giving up an average of 171.6 yards per game. Opposing offenses have allowed 150 or more yards in seven of their 12 games this year and allowed 200 or more yards in four games.

Notable players to know on the Tigers offense include linebacker Austin Hall, defensive end Bryce Huff, and defensive lineman Joseph Dorceus.

Hall this season has been fantastic for the Tigers, leading the team in tackles (69 - NICE), third on the team in tackles for a loss (9), while also totaling 2.5 sacks, one interception, six pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and one touchdown. Huff totaled 47 tackles, a team-leading 15 tackles for a loss, and six sacks. He also had two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Dorceus put up numbers close to that of Huff with 43 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, and five sacks. Other names to know include defensive back La’Andre Thomas and linebacker Xavier Cullens.

Special Teams:

Penn State special teams coach Joe Lorig used to coach at Memphis and it seems that the Tigers have not forgotten his ways. The Tigers have been strong on special teams this season. They average over 35 yards per kick return though they only have averaged 7.5 yards per punt return. Kicker Riley Patterson has made 62-of-63 extra points this season while also making 17-of-19 field goal attempts. Punter Adam Williams has also been great, averaging 45.7 yards per punt.

One last fast fact to know special teams wise is that the Cotton Bowl features the two best special teams in the country as Penn State and Memphis are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in ESPN’s Special Teams efficiency ratings.