After falling just short against South Florida, Tulane will have another shot to knock off a ranked team for the first time since 1984. This week, the Green Wave will head to Memphis to face the American Athletic Conference's West division favorite.
Since being obliterated by UCF earlier this month, the Memphis Tigers have hung by the seat of their pants. After a blowout victory over Connecticut, Memphis has defeated Navy and Houston by just a combined seven points. In last week's 42-38 win over the Cougars, Memphis rallied from 17 points down.
The Tigers are undefeated at home this season, which includes victories over then-ranked UCLA and Navy teams. The Tigers won 24-14 over Tulane last season and have won 10 straight over the Green Wave going back to 2002.
Tulane at Memphis
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Memphis -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Anthony Miller
The name that most people know for the Memphis offense is quarterback Riley Ferguson and for good reason. Ferguson ranks 11th nationally with 2,285 passing yards and sixth in the country with 20 touchdown passes, but it's his top target who was been unstoppable in recent weeks. Miller has recorded at least 10 catches in each of the last three weeks in addition to a nine-catch, 185-yard performance against UCLA earlier in the year.
Over the last three weeks, the 5-foot-11 senior wide receiver has hauled in 35 catches for 492 yards and six touchdowns. For the year, Miller ranks in the top 10 nationally in all three statistical categories with 55 catches for 784 yards and nine touchdowns. Miller will be a tough cover for a Tulane defense that ranks in the top 30 nationally in pass defense and 16th when it comes to lowest completion percentage allowed. Last week, the Tulane defense held South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers to just 10 of 24 passing. Expect Miller to be matched up quite a bit with physical senior cornerback Parry Nickerson. Nickerson is one of the best in the AAC and leads the Green Wave with three interceptions.
2. Dontrell Hilliard
There are a number of players who touch the ball for Tulane, but the bulk of the offense comes from its senior running back. So far this season, Hilliard is accounting for more than 30 percent of the Green Wave's total offense and 41 percent of their touchdowns. Hilliard, at 6-foot and 205 pounds, is a big play waiting to happen, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 19 yards per reception.
Hilliard has 815 total yards and 11 total touchdowns on the year with most of the damage (701, 9 TDs) coming on the ground. Hilliard will be facing a Memphis defense that ranks just 108th in the country against the run (212.7 ypg). Hilliard being able to have a productive day would not only give Tulane its best chance to score, but it also would keep Ferguson and the explosive Memphis offense off the field.
3. The pass rush
When Tulane and Memphis meet on Friday, both quarterbacks could have an eternity of time to throw the football. For the year, the two teams have combined for just 20 sacks with 11 coming from the Green Wave. While Nickerson is solid in the secondary, getting to Ferguson will be absolutely vital for Tulane. Of Tulane's 11 sacks, 6.5 have come from the defensive end duo of Luke Jackson and Ade Aruna.
At the midway point in the season, there are only nine FBS teams with fewer sacks than Memphis. In fact, there are two players who have more sacks than the Tigers' nine as a team. Ernest Suttles leads the Tigers with two sacks. Getting pressure on Tulane's Jonathan Banks isn't as vital as it is for the Green Wave to get pressure on Ferguson, but Banks is coming off a season-high 221 yards passing in last week's loss to USF and likes to take shots deep.
Tulane has shown plenty of fight this season, playing competitively at Navy and then last week against South Florida. What the Green Wave haven't done however, is win on the road. Dontrell Hilliard is an outstanding playing, but Tulane probably doesn't have the firepower to keep up with Riley Ferguson, Anthony Miller, Darrell Henderson and a high-powered Memphis offense. Having to travel on a short week to play a prime-time game probably won't help the Green Wave much either.
Prediction: Memphis 42, Tulane 24
(Top photo courtesy of Memphis Athletics)