The site: Marlins Park, Miami, FL
Kickoff: Monday, December 22nd, 2 PM EST (ESPN)
The two teams slated to face each other in Miami took very different roads to get to this point. On one hand, you have a Memphis Tigers team which had relatively low preseason expectations. On the other hand, we have a BYU team which had New Years Day Bowl hopes dashed by a key injury mid-season. The result of these two teams' last four months has led to what should be a very interesting and exciting game. Lets see what each team needs to do to win and who will come away with the win.
Memphis Tigers (9-3)
How they got here: The season began with an expected and lopsided victory over an overwhelmed Austin Peay Governors squad. The following week was when Memphis started turning heads in the college football world. Memphis traveled to the Rose Bowl and flirted with a upset of then #11 UCLA. The Tigers traded wins and losses for the next several weeks before catching fire and outscoring their opponents 214-80 while closing their season on at 6 game winning streak.
The key to winning: To win, the Tigers must have accuracy and sound decision making from quarterback Paxton Lynch. Last season, during his freshman year, Lynch passed to the wrong team 10 times while only accounting for 9 touchdowns through the air. In 2014 Lynch accounted for 18 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. Lynch threw four of his interceptions in the Tigers three losses this season. In order for the Tigers to win on Monday, they will need Lynch to manage the game and avoid costly mistakes.
BYU Cougars (8-4)
How they got here: After a 4-0 start, which included blowing out Texas in Austin, the Cougars suffered a devastating blow to their offense. Taysom Hill, the Cougars starting quarterback, was lost to injury during a loss to Utah State. At the time the Cougars had been ranked as high as #18 in the AP poll. Hill's backup, senior Christian Stewart, would struggle to lead his team to victory over the next three games before finishing the season on a four game win streak.
The Key to winning: For BYU to come away with the win the Cougars, will have to find a way around a stingy Memphis defense and come up with some big plays. The Cougars have proven at times during the season that they are capable of putting up big offensive numbers. In fact, the Cougars offense is currently ranked inside the top 20 averaging 36 points for per game. Memphis' defense, on the other hand, only gives up an average of 17 points per game. The BYU offense is plenty good enough to win this battle of wills. This game is set up, on paper, to be extremely tight. If BYU can manage to wear down this Memphis defense and hit a big play then they should easily grab a win.
The Miami Beach Bowl is such a closely contested game (on paper) that it is difficult to see either team losing. I'm no gambler but I do like to see the lines Vegas places on games. I mean, these Vegas guys pick the spread so close almost all of the time. With that said, even Vegas only has this as a 1 point game (in Memphis' favor). So who will win?
To answer that question, I must quote one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game. Bear Bryant once said "offense sells tickets; defense wins championships." Throughout this season Memphis has been praised for their defense. Coming in to this game the Tigers boast the 5th ranked defense in points allowed. The Cougars fell short against a similar team, and conference foe, earlier this season as UCF beat BYU in overtime.
The Tigers defense, in my opinion, is a shade better than UCF. BYU's offense should have some success moving the ball but once the Tigers defense gets in to the flow of the game I believe the Tigers will have no problem stalling the BYU attack. This game will be very close but I believe Memphis has enough offense and more than enough defense to pull out the win. In the end I believe Memphis will cover and win by a field goal.
Memphis 30 - BYU 27