FACTS & STATS: Site: Rentschler Field (40,000) -- East Hartford, Connecticut. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Memphis 2-5, Connecticut 1-5. Away Record: Memphis 1-3, Connecticut 1-4. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, Connecticut 0-0. Conference Record: Memphis 1-6, Connecticut 2-5. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: With neither team playing for a spot in a bowl game, the Memphis Tigers and Connecticut Huskies will just try to end the season on a high note when they match up in American Athletic Conference play at Rentschler Field.
The Tigers' first run in their new conference has clearly not gone as well as they had hoped. Memphis enters the final weekend of the season with just a 3-8 overall record and a miserable 1-6 mark against the rest of the conference. A 41-21 rout against Temple at home last weekend was the second straight setback for Memphis, which had won consecutive games prior to those two disappointments.
The Huskies picked the wrong time in the season to begin a winning streak as despite taking consecutive victories against Temple (28-21) and Rutgers (28-17), they are still far from postseason range. The reason for that is a nine-game losing streak to begin the year. UConn fired Paul Pasqualoni during the skein, and replaced him on an interim basis with T.J. Weist.
These two teams are conference foes for the first time ever this season. However Saturday will not just be the first meeting as conference opponents but the first overall between the Tigers and Huskies.
The offensive side of the ball has been the major weakness for the Tigers this season. Memphis ranks among the bottom three teams in the AAC in both scoring (20.4 ppg) and total offense (316.5 ypg).
Leading the attack from under center is Paxton Lynch, who has never really looked comfortable this year. Although he is just a shade under 60 percent in terms of completion percentage, Lynch has only 1,887 passing yards and more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight).
Lynch has not had a ton of productive targets to choose from but has spread the wealth to a degree among the options he has. Joe Craig (33 receptions, 313 yards) is the most reliable receiver. Mose Frazier (18 receptions, 296 yards, TD) and Sam Craft (27 receptions, 286 yards, TD) are two other receivers that get in the mix, while tight end Alan Cross (12 receptions, 141 yards, two TDs) is used sparingly.
In the backfield Brandon Hayes is clearly the team's anchor. Hayes has rushed for 827 yards and five touchdowns this season.
The Tigers have been rather formidable on the defensive side of things. The Tigers are letting up only 22.7 points and 355.5 yards per game, ranking in the upper half of the conference in each category. Martin Ifedi (48 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks) is the only all-conference talent on the entire roster with his ability to disrupt things in opposing backfields.
UConn has actually been worse than Memphis on offense, ranking second to last in the AAC in yards (298.4) and points (18.4) per game.
Without any consistency at quarterback the Huskies' offensive woes are understandable. Casey Cochran, Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle have all gotten extended looks at quarterback with none really producing much. Boyle has been intercepted eight times without a passing touchdown and Whitmer, who began the year as the starter, was sacked 20 times in four games. Cochran has shown the most promise, throwing for 832 yards and seven scores, to four interceptions, on 62 percent passing.
When dropping back to pass Cochran is generally looking to get the ball to Geremy Davis, who has turned in a strong season despite working with several different quarterbacks. Davis has an outside shot at a 1,000-yard season as he has 878 yards and two scores on 56 receptions, while having recorded at least 75 yards in each of the last four games. Davis also has three 100-yard efforts this season. Second option Shakim Phillips (28 receptions, 406 yards, three TDs) has been shut out recently and hasn't had a reception in the last two games.
The backfield duo of Lyle McCombs and Max DeLorenzo handle the rushing duties for the Huskies. Each has had an up and down season. McCombs leads the team in rushing (656), while adding four scores. DeLorenzo has 342 yards and five touchdowns this season.
UConn also has an all-league caliber talent on defense in linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who has been a tackling machine this season. Smallwood has recorded 111 stops, with 7.5 going for loss. Even with Smallwood's efforts, the Huskies have still been a porous defensive unit, allowing 32.1 points and 396.2 yards per game. The Huskies are second to last in the league in scoring defense.
Right now the Huskies are the team riding more of a hot streak and that may prove to be enough of a difference, especially with UConn hosting, as both teams will be looking forward to the offseason.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 24, Memphis 20
Saturday, December 7, 1 p.m. (et)