AU Bowl Opponent Preview: Memphis Tigers

Auburn will play the Memphis Tigers for just the third time in football when the teams meet in the Birmingham Bowl.

Paxton Lynch (above) has blossomed into an outstanding quarterback at Memphis.

Auburn, Ala.--The Memphis Tigers will enter the Birmingham Bowl with a record of 9-3 and plenty of talent for a team in the American Athletic Conference as they prepare to take on Auburn.

Justin Fuente led his football team to a second consecutive nine-win season, but recently accepted another head coaching offer at Virginia Tech. Co-offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey will coach the team for the bowl game.

After starting the season with an 8-0 record, including a 37-24 victory over Ole Miss and being ranked as high as No. 13 in the nation, the Tigers lost three straight games to Navy (9-2), AAC Champion Houston (12-1) and Temple (10-3). However, the Tigers got back on track in their last game of the regular season, defeating SMU (2-10) 63-0.

The Tigers’ pass-oriented offense is led by talented junior quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch, who stands at 6-7 and weighs 245 pounds, is an outstanding player and was recently named a finalist for the Manning Award, given annually to the nation’s best quarterback.

Lynch has completed 69 percent of his passes this season for 3,670 yards and 28 touchdowns with only three interceptions while also rushing for 346 yards and two touchdowns.

Lynch spreads the ball around very well, as seven different receivers have at least 200 yards on the year. Mose Frazier (750 yards and four TDs), Anthony Miller (684 yards and four TDs) and Phil Mayhue (644 yards and one TD) are Lynch’s favorite targets. The Tigers’ offensive line is solid, only allowing 15 sacks this season.

While the passing game is its main offensive strength, Memphis also has a talented backfield consisting of several capable running backs. Doroland Dorceus leads the group with 643 yards and eight touchdowns while Jarvis Cooper (375 yards) and Sam Craft (356 yards) both have five touchdowns on the season. Freshman JaMarius Henderson, an Alabama native who played at Dale County High School, is a powerful reserve back.

For the season, the defense has struggled, giving up an average of 407.1 yards and 27.0 points per game. However, Memphis has accumulated 27 sacks and nine interceptions, forced 10 fumbles and only allows opponents to convert 36.46 percent of their third downs.

Senior linebackers Leonard Pegues (44 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, one interception) and Wynton McManis (48 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss, three sacks) are the leaders of the defense. Reggis Ball is a talented defensive back with 41 tackles and three interceptions and defensive end Christian Johnson is an excellent pass rusher with a team-leading four sacks.

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