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Birmingham Bowl Preview and Prediction: Auburn vs. Memphis

Paxton Lynch

Paxton Lynch

The Auburn Tigers will face the Memphis Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl on Wednesday. It's not quite where Auburn fans expected their team to be but at least it's a short commute.

Auburn failed to live up to preseason hype as a potential contender for the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Tigers finished with a 6-6 record and last place in the SEC West.

Memphis holds a 9-3 record and spent several weeks in the Top 25 after upsetting then-No. 13 Ole Miss. But the Tigers finished third in the American Athletic Conference's (AAC) West Division after losing three of their final four games.

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Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Wednesday)


Spread: Auburn -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Auburn defense without Will Muschamp

The Will Muschamp experiment was a complete failure. Auburn's defense took a step back in 2015 and is now without a coordinator after Muschamp took the head coaching position at South Carolina.

The Tigers ranked 13th in the SEC — only the Gamecocks ranked lower — and have allowed 27.3 points per game. Memphis has a capable offense led by dual-threat quarterback Paxton Lynch and could give the struggling Auburn defense fits.

2. Will Paxton Lynch live up to NFL hype?

Lynch could be playing in his last college game. He is projected by many to be the first quarterback selected in the 2016 NFL Draft should the junior declare.

Memphis hasn't had much national exposure aside from its upset of Ole Miss and a Friday night primetime win over Tulsa. The Birmingham Bowl could be the perfect "coming out party" for the dual-threat quarterback.

3. Which QB will get the most reps for Auburn?

Jeremy Johnson and Sean White have split reps throughout the season at quarterback. Johnson opened the year with Heisman hype but struggled early, leading to the inexperienced White taking over as Auburn's starter.

Johnson worked his way back into the lineup but neither quarterback emerged as a clear-cut, SEC-caliber starting QB. Memphis has a defense capable of forcing either player to make mistakes which could be crucial in this bowl matchup.

Final Analysis

Sure, Memphis proved that it was capable of upsetting an SEC team, albeit it at home. But Auburn has about as much of a home-field advantage as any participating bowl team has for its respective pairing.

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Auburn has struggled but should still have enough of a talent advantage to hold off a Memphis upset.

Prediction: Auburn 28, Memphis 24

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.