After two weeks on the road, Memphis football returns home to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium for a homecoming against South Florida.
The Tigers (6-2, 3-1 AAC) became bowl-eligible with last week’s wild win over North Texas. Memphis is tied for fourth in the AAC behind three 4-0 teams – Tulane, SMU and UTSA.
USF (4-4, 2-2) has shown improvement under first-year coach Alex Golesh, who took over after last season’s 1-11 campaign.
Here’s your primer for Saturday’s matchup (2 p.m., ESPN+).
Don’t blink when USF has the ball
The Bulls lead the nation in plays per game at 83.6. Memphis’ last two opponents, UAB and North Texas, are in the top 20 in plays per game. The Tigers have been preparing for quick offenses, but even those don’t match up to the speed of USF.
Defensive coordinator Matt Barnes said the Memphis defense — particularly the secondary — started to tire as the game against North Texas went on and injuries piled up. The Tigers allowed 10 points in the first half, then allowed 32 in the second.
That was the opposite of Memphis’ defensive performance against UAB. In that game, the Tigers looked confused and allowed 21 first-half points before regrouping at halftime and shutting out the Blazers in the final 30 minutes en route to a 45-21 win.
Can Memphis put a complete game together?
USF relies on two runners to move the ball
USF running back Nay’Quan Wright leads the team with 590 rushing yards, but quarterback Byrum Brown isn’t far behind. He has 573 yards, good for fourth among quarterbacks nationally and first in the AAC.
Memphis running back Blake Watson is 23rd in the country with 762 rushing yards.
Wright and Brown are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the AAC. Brown has also thrown for 1,865 yards, which puts him sixth in the conference.
Didn’t USF play Alabama football close?
Indeed. The Bulls hosted the Crimson Tide on Sept. 16 for a bizarre game that featured a long weather delay and multiple Alabama quarterbacks. Nick Saban shuffled through two quarterbacks that weren’t usual starter Jalen Milroe, and the Crimson Tide plodded their way to a 17-3 win.
The Bulls have had an up-and-down season since then.
They began AAC play with wins over Rice and Navy, then got blown out by UAB and Florida Atlantic. The 56-14 loss to the Owls was particularly brutal. South Florida is 12th in the 14-team AAC in yards allowed per game and 13th in passing yards allowed per game.
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Memphis score prediction vs USF
Memphis 48, USF 38. It’s another high-scoring game, and although it isn’t always pretty, the Tigers win their third-straight to pick up momentum heading into the final weeks of the season.
Reach sports writer Jonah Dylan at [email protected] or on Twitter @thejonahdylan.