The nation's rushing leader, Darrell Henderson, and the Tigers travel to New Orleans to face the Green Wave in a key AAC West matchup
Memphis (3-1) and its high-powered offense travel to the Big Easy to face Tulane Friday, where the Tigers will attempt to win their first American Athletic Conference game of the season. Memphis dropped its AAC opener by one point to Navy on Sept. 8, but that game appears to be an aberration as the Tigers have outscored their opponents 111-57 in the two weeks since that loss. Memphis defeated South Alabama 52-35 last week.
Tulane (1-3) returns home after a trip to Ohio State that resulted in a 49-6 loss. The loss was the Green Wave’s second in a row, but Friday marks Tulane’s AAC opener and a chance for the Green Wave to get back into the win column. Tulane’s lone win of the season came in Week 2 against FCS opponent Nicholls.
Memphis and Tulane first met in 1954 in New Orleans, and the inaugural contest resulted in a 13-13 tie. Memphis currently owns an 11-game winning streak over the Green Wave that dates back to 2002, which also is why the Tigers hold a 22-11-1 series advantage.
Memphis at Tulane
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Memphis -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Memphis’ score-crazy offense
Memphis has scored more than 50 points in three of its four games this year. The Tigers’ highest-scoring output came in Week 1 when they put up 66 points against FCS opponent Mercer, and their lowest-scoring output occurred in Week 2 when they managed just 21 points at Navy.
At 49.5 points per game, Memphis boasts the 10th-ranked scoring offense in the nation and rank third in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Tulane will be tasked with containing an offense that averages 593.0 yards per game, good enough to rank fourth in the FBS and second in the AAC. Memphis’ 8.7 yards per play lead all FBS teams.
Memphis has scored touchdowns on three of its four opening possessions this year. The Green Wave defense (No. 114 in FBS), which is allowing 491.5 yards and 30 points per game this season, could find itself overwhelmed early.
2. Tulane receiver Darnell “Money” Mooney
Mooney stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 170 pounds — measurables that bode well for a big-time-threat receiver. Through four games this year, Mooney’s already accumulated 385 yards and three touchdowns on 22 catches.
The junior owns two 100-yard games this year. He burned Nicholls for 111 yards and one touchdown on six receptions, and against his home-state UAB Blazers, Mooney tallied 123 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. While he failed to score a touchdown last week against Ohio State, he still hauled in four catches for 77 yards.
Memphis’ secondary struggled last week against South Alabama receiver Jamarius Way, who exploded for 185 yards and a score on 10 catches.
3. Memphis running back Darrell Henderson’s rushing assault
Henderson has complied monster numbers over the last three weeks with 633 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in that span alone. His 709 yards on the ground lead the nation. Perhaps even more impressive than that total and his eight rushing touchdowns (tied second in the FBS), is the 12.22 yards per carry he's averaging. With success like that it should be no surprise that he's also leading the nation with 177.3 rushing yards per game.
Henderson enters Friday after putting up a 188-yard, two-touchdown performance against South Alabama. In his previous two games, he ran for 212 yards against Navy (Sept. 8) and 233 against Georgia State (Sept. 14).
Tulane’s run defense ranks 96th nationally at 187.5 yards per game. The Green Wave gave up 101 yards and a touchdown to UAB's Spencer Brown two weeks ago.
While Tulane’s 1-3 record isn’t ideal, the Green Wave took Wake Forest to overtime before losing, and were tied with UAB were tied with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter before a late score gave the Blazers the win. A full, four-quarter effort could make things interesting Friday.
Memphis over the last two weeks has been one of the nation’s hottest teams and has rolled up a ton of points and yards in the process. Running back Darrell Henderson has received deserved attention, but quarterback Brady White also has been electric. This season, White’s thrown for 12 touchdowns and just one interception to go with 1,064 yards. The Tigers also have gotten the job done on defense this season, ranking second in the AAC at 317.3 yards per game allowed.
The Tigers should have no problem making it out of New Orleans with a win Friday night.
Prediction: Memphis 37, Tulane 17
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star, Hayes also has been an invited guest on "The Paul Finebaum Show." Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
(Top photo by Joe Murphy/University of Memphis)