Game Week: Memphis Facts and Factors

SEP. 2 -- Despite a season-opening win last week, Memphis has been one of the least successful programs in the FBS in recent years...

UCLA opens its home season schedule this Saturday, Sept. 6th, at the Rose Bowl against the Memphis Tigers. The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. PST and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.

• UCLA remained #7 in the AP Poll but fell to #11 in the USA Today Coaches Poll after a too-close victory over Virginia last week, 28-20.

• Memphis beat FCS Austin Peay, 63-0, in its season opener.

• This Saturday’s game marks the first time UCLA and Memphis have ever played each other in football.

• The Tigers were 3-9 and 1-7 in 2013, finishing in a tie for last place in the American Athletic Conference.

• Memphis has been one of the least-successful programs in the nation over the last decade or so, not having had a winning season since 2007, when it went 7-5. In the last 10 years it’s had just three winning seasons, and 4 seasons in which it only won two games.

• Last week’s win over Austin Peay marks the first time since 2004 Memphis won its season opener. Of course, Austin Peay is an FCS program (D 1-AA), but that wasn’t the first time it faced FCS programs during that 9-game losing streak for season openers. The nine-game losing streak for season openers was the longest in the FBS before it was snapped last week.

• For Memphis it will be only the third time in its history it’s played a football game in the state of California. And it actually is 2-0, having beaten San Jose State in 1971 and then-16th-ranked USC in 1991, 24-10.

• This Saturday won’t be the first time Memphis has played in the Rose Bowl. The game against San Jose State in 1971 was for the Pasadena Bowl, and it was played in the Rose Bowl.

• Memphis hasn’t beaten a ranked team since 1996, when it notched a victory over #6 Tennessee. It’s faced 12 ranked teams since and lost every match-up.

• The last time Memphis beat a ranked team on the road was in 1991, against USC.

• Memphis has only played two other top-ten teams since 2001 and lost to both. In fact, it’s only beaten two top-ten teams in its history, in 1975 and 1965.

• So, essentially, if Memphis beats UCLA on Saturday, it will be its biggest win in 39 years.

• Memphis is coached by third-year head man Justin Fuente who, at the age of 38, is one of the youngest coaches in FBS. A former quarterback at Murray State (and Oklahoma before he transferred), he started coaching in 2001 and has moved up the rank of assistants before getting his first head-coaching position at Memphis. His biggest coaching accomplishment so far was, as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas Christian in 2009, he helped TCU achieve an undefeated season and win in the Rose Bowl. He was the coach responsible for the development of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, and that resume was a big factor in Fuente getting the job at Memphis. So far with the Tigers overall he’s 8-17. Memphis fans were hopeful after his first season in 2012 when he when he posted four wins after the former coach, Larry Porter, had only achieved three wins the previous two seasons. In that first year, too, Fuente went 4-4 in the Conference USA East, which shed a little light of optimism on the Memphis program. But last season, the Tigers regressed a bit with the 3-9 overall record and 1-7 in conference, which tied them for last in the AAC. While Memphis only has 12 victories over the past five years, seven of those have come in the past two seasons under Fuente, so Memphis Nation remains optimistic. It is his third year, so the sentiment is that this is the year Fuente needs to show clear improvement. Fuente, being a former quarterback and quarterbacks coach, is an offense-minded coach.

• Memphis, though, despite having an offensive-minded coach, only scored more than 21 points three times in 2013.

• The American Athletic Conference might not sound familiar, because it’s a new conference that was formed in the first year of the College Football Playoff. It was formerly the Big East, which was part of the six power conferences in the Bowl Championship Series, but it is now one of the “Group of Five” mid-major conferences that is guaranteed a spot in one of the six premier bowl games in the College Football Playoff. There is still a Big East Conference, but it now is comprised of basketball-only schools. Once the American Athletic Conference was formed, Memphis joined after having been in Conference USA.

• Since so much was made of UCLA having to travel between three time zones to play Virginia last week, it should be noted that Memphis is in the Central Standard Time zone and will travel over two time zones for Saturday’s game.

• Memphis is a young team, with 25 players making their college football debut last week against Austin Peay, and six of those true freshmen.

• Former Memphis Head Coach Rip Scherer (1995-200) is in his second year ast UCLA as the Associate Athletic Director for Sports and Administration.

• UCLA opened as 24-point favorites over Memphis.

• The weather forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 94 degrees, but with the game at 7:00 p.m. the temperature will be comfortably in the 80s by game time, and the 70s by the second half.

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