It may be just the beginning of October, but the Memphis Tigers hit the road for what could end up being a must-win game if they are to make a run at the American Athletic Conference’s West Division. A road trip to Connecticut could be a bit more of a challenge than most will expect to see, but the pressure will be on for Memphis to come off a brutal loss last week to avoid falling into a deeper hole in the division standings before playing a single division game.
On Friday night, the AAC will get to showcase a pair of the conference’s top quarterbacks. UConn also will be looking to pick up a win to snap a three-game losing streak. The home teams have fared well in this series, but can the Huskies hold off a Memphis team looking to bounce back in a big way on Friday night?
Memphis at Connecticut
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Memphis -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Memphis looking to rebound after ugly loss
The Tigers are hoping this week’s road trip is not as much of a disaster as last week’s visit to Orlando. Memphis took a 40-13 loss against UCF last week with quarterback Riley Ferguson being picked off three times. It was an uncharacteristic game for Memphis with a minus-three turnover margin after entering the game with at plus-three for the season. Look for Memphis to do a better job protecting the football and winning the turnover margin to clean up its play. The Huskies have a minus-four turnover margin this season.
2. Bryant Shirreffs is the best AAC QB you’re not watching
The AAC has some good quarterbacks in its conference, including Riley Ferguson of Memphis and, of course, Quinton Flowers of USF. But if you have not been following along, UConn’s senior quarterback has been playing pretty well too. Shirreffs leads the AAC in passing yards per game and is second in passing yardage while tossing eight touchdowns to two interceptions in four games this season. His 182.33 passer rating is the best in the conference. If UConn is going to pull the upset, Shirreffs will be a big reason why.
3. Will a brief history of blowouts continue?
This week will mark just the third time these two programs have squared off against one another. The series started when Memphis joined the AAC in 2013 but the schools have not played each of the past two seasons due to being in different divisions. Memphis and UConn split their previous two meetings with each winning by at least 30 points on their home field. It may be difficult for UConn to pull off that kind of upset, but Memphis could run away with this game if they get back on track.
If Memphis is not careful, it could lose its second straight game rather easily on Friday night. The Tigers have to improve in many areas on defense, including getting off the field on third down. Memphis may not be able to do much on defense, but the Huskies have struggled inside the red zone to put points on the board. If Memphis can keep that trend going, the Tigers should get out of this one with a win to regain some confidence moving forward.
Prediction: Memphis 33, UConn 26
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
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