Memphis Tigers once went 25 years without getting into a bowl game. But the Tigers' recent streak of nine straight invitations puts them right behind Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, and Ohio State in terms of consecutive years in the postseason. By comparison, Oklahoma State has been in the top five in the polls, Mississippi State has been No. 1, and Ohio State has won championships and is always in the CFB playoff. That's not bad company to be in.
Memphis is known by some as "Running Back U". Three of their former players (Antonio Gibson, Tony Pollard, Cowboys, and Kenneth Gainwell) represent 60 percent of the NFC East's run-heavy division. But the last few years have been a slowdown for Memphis on that RB train track to the NFL.
The Memphis Tigers come into the AAC season after a seven-win season (which included a victory over Utah State in the First Responder Bowl). From their defense, the Tigers lose seven of their top 11 tacklers from last year. Seth Henigan, a 3rd-team AAC preseason pick, returns as the third-year starter at quarterback. However, the top two runners won't be back, or the top four receivers. RB Sutton Smith was a true freshman last year and showed some promise in blowout games.
This is Coach Silverfield's year to be "the year before the hot-seat year". On the offensive side, Memphis has hired two new people. One is Memphis hired David Diehl, formerly of the New York Giants coaching staff, and has been brought in to spice up the offense. Last year was the first year in several years there were no 1000-yard rushers or receivers for Memphis. The top receiver (Eddie Lewis) only gained 615 yards. The wide-open offense known as "Weapon U' was renamed by rude skeptics as "Weapon Who"? There's also a new special teams coach, Chris White from the University of Buffalo. Last year's kickoff team did poorly, resulting in long runbacks and a kickoff TD by Houston during a 19-point comeback win by the Cougars, which is why he's there now.
The defensive returnees include DE Jaylon Allen, and Xavier Cullens, LB. They add star middle linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku, the 4th highest tackler for Syracuse in 2022. Even with just six starters returning on defense, they gained three good transfers from Power 5 conference schools. When compared to other AAC teams, Phil Steele Magazine found that Memphis has five very highly touted recruits. Most of those were on defense.
Scheduling has done Memphis a favor this year. Navy, Boise St., Tulane, and SMU all travel to Memphis in 2023, where Memphis is 25-4 at home since 2017. Memphis returns six on offense and six on defense that were starters. The offensive line has three starters back, a welcome sight for an often-sacked Seth Henigan last year. With the schedule being favorable, ESPN BPI has Memphis favored in 10 of the 12 games. Most of the projections say eight wins should be a fair guess; we would say that range seems most likely.
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