After having its Oct. 8 game against UCF rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew, Tulane enters this week’s matchup against Memphis with an extra week of rest. The 3-2 Green Wave have won their last two games beating UMass on Oct. 1 and Louisiana-Lafayette in overtime on Sept. 24.
Memphis continues to roll along under first-year head coach Mike Norvell. The Tigers are 4-1 on the season, with their lone blemish coming at hands of Ole Miss in a 48-28 loss. Memphis’ passing offense, led by junior quarterback Riley Ferguson, ranks 31st nationally at 281.6 yards per game. Behind it, the Tigers are averaging 43.4 points per game.
The Tulane-Memphis series dates back to 1954. The Tigers own a 20-11-1 series advantage, and won the past nine meetings. Tulane’s last win came at home back in 2000 when Chris Scelfo was the head coach.
Memphis at Tulane
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Tulane +10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Tulane’s defense vs. Memphis’ high-powered offense
When it comes to adjectives to describe Tulane’s defense, opportunistic quickly comes to mind. The Green Wave lead the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and rank fourth in the FBS in turnover margin (+8 or 1.6 per game). The defense has registered 12 takeaways, seven of those being fumble recoveries.
Opposing defenses have found Memphis’ offense difficult to corral this year. The Tigers are averaging 446.2 yards and 41.3 points per game. They are 11th nationally in scoring offense. While Memphis has leaned a little more on its passing attack, the ground game is gaining 164.6 yards per game as well.
Tulane’s defense has gotten the job done thus far, but will it face its toughest test yet on Friday night.
2. Memphis’ Riley Ferguson
Following the departure of record-setting quarterback Paxton Lynch, there were plenty of questions about how productive Memphis’ offense would be in 2016. Thanks to the emergence of Ferguson, those questions don’t really exist, as the Tigers are 31st nationally and third in the AAC in passing offense. Ferguson has thrown for 1,360 yards with 11 touchdowns and completion rate of 66.3. He got off to a great start in the opener against Southeast Missouri (295 yards, 3 TDs), and then had a field day three weeks later against Bowling Green, throwing for 359 yards and accounting for seven touchdowns (6 passing, 1 rushing) in just two quarters of work.
Tulane’s passing defense has been solid thus far, allowing 171.4 yards per game. The Green Wave have nearly as many interceptions (five) as touchdown passes allowed (six).
3. Tigers’ WR Anthony Miller
The Ferguson-Miller tandem has proved successful in Memphis’ hot start. Miller’s 408 receiving yards lead the Tigers, as does his 81.2 yards per game. Miller’s also a running threat, as he’s tallied 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Miller lit up the Ole Miss defense for 132 yards on 10 receptions, and he tallied another 100-yard effort against Southeast Missouri in the opener.
Miller has accounted for five of Memphis’ nine longest plays from scrimmage this season. His big-play ability is something Tulane’s defense will need to pay attention to and try to prevent.
With three wins at this juncture of the season, optimism for long-term success under first-year head coach Willie Fritz is high in New Orleans as Tulane has won a total of three games each of its last two seasons. Memphis also is clicking on all cylinders under rookie head coach Mike Norvell thanks to solid play in all three phases. But the Tigers appear to have a little more offensive firepower, which will help them win this key AAC West divisional game.
Final Score: Memphis 37, Tulane 21
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.