1. QB Jacob Karam
Despite Memphis' disappointing 1-6 record, junior quarterback Jacob Karam has played surprisingly well, throwing for over 1000 yards and only two interceptions all year. Karam's problem, as is the Memphis offense, is scoring points. Karam has led his offense to a mere 18.1 points a game, and has only thrown six touchdown passes all year. The SMU defense must account for Karam's running ability too, as he is prone to take off and run every once in a while.
2. RB Jai Steib
After starting running back Jerrell Rhodes went down with an injury, back up Jai Steib took over the starting duties, and has performed admirably. Steib, who has yet to have over 13 rushes in a game, is coming off the best performance of this season, rushing for 88 yards on only 13 rushes against UCF. At 225 pounds, Steib relies more on his power than his speed, so the SMU front seven must be ready to deliver hard hits in order to take him down.
3. WR Marcus Rucker
Senior wide receiver Marcus Rucker has been inconsistent so far this season, only reaching over four catches twice this season. Despite this, Rucker has the ability to go off in a game, particularly catching ten balls for 177 yards earlier this season, so the SMU secondary must be aware of where Rucker is on the field at all times. Rucker, who stands at 6-foot-4, will provide a challenge for the shorter SMU secondary, so Kenneth Acker and company must keep an eye on Rucker, especially in the red zone.
4. WR Keiwone Malone
Rucker's younger and smaller counterpart Keiwone Malone provides a much different style of play than Rucker. Malone, who is a skinny 155-pounder, is a much shifter and speedy receiver than Rucker, and has great vision to find gaps in any secondary he plays against. Malone, who leads the team in catches, has the ability to make big plays down the field, as shown in his 10.2 yards per catch. If Malone can find gaps in the SMU defense, he may be poised to have a big day on Saturday, and cause many problems for the SMU defense.
5. LB Akeem Davis
Searching for an impact player on the Memphis defense was a bit challenging, especially on a team that gives up 32 points per game, including giving up 48 to Middle Tennessee State. Davis, however, accounted for 57 solo tackles last year as a junior, and has continued this trend in his senior season. Although the SMU offense should have no problem scoring on the Memphis defense, Gilbert and co. should account for Davis.