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Is the Memphis Tigers' 2015 Football Schedule A Setup For Success?

The American Athletic Conference released the final football schedule for the 2015 Memphis Tigers this morning. I react.

Paxton Lynch hopes to add another AAC Championship this year.
Paxton Lynch hopes to add another AAC Championship this year.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday morning, the American Athletic Conference released football schedules for the 2015 season. Though the Memphis Tigers had known what teams they would be playing, the order and dates had previously been unknown.

Here is the schedule, with ridiculously-premature analysis appended!

(All series data, unless otherwise noted, is from the wonderfully-comprehensive website, Trip's Tigers.)

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Missouri State Bears (HOME; September 5th)

Conference: Missouri Valley (FCS)

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 4-8 (113)

Record against the Tigers: First meeting

Comments: Memphis opens the season at home against an FCS school that only won 4 games last season, and is breaking in a new head coach, Dave Steckel.

Being a Memphis fan, I am always careful to avoid dismissing any opponent as a sure win. Part is caution (I sat through a loss to FCS Tennessee-Martin not too long ago). Part is empathy (I have endured dismissive comments from other opponents, i.e.: "tomato can"). Part is self-preservation (the wife is a Missouri State alumna).

But, this is about as sure a win as I can imagine.

Predicted record: 1-0


Kansas Jayhawks (Away; September 12th)

Conference: Big XII

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 3-9 (115)

Record against the Tigers: First meeting

Comments: The Jayhawks' patience ran out with Notre Dame retread Charlie Weis early last season, who was fired after three (well, two-and-a-third) difficult years and replaced with his defensive coordinator. Kansas never clicked, limping to a 3 - 9 record.

This is a good chance for the Tigers to pick up a win against a major conference opponent (albeit a rebuilding one; new head coach David Beaty enters with lots of work to do). Though Memphis' tough defense will take a hit with eight starters not returning, the inept Kansas offense is unlikely to be improved enough to matter.

Big surprise: I'm taking Memphis.

Predicted record: 2-0

Bowling Green State Falcons (Away; September 19th)

Conference: MAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 8-6 (119)

Record against the Tigers: 1-0

Comments: Bowling Green State won a thrilling Camellia Bowl over South Alabama to cap head coach Dino Babers' inaugural season in style. In his second year, his team figures to be improved on both sides of the ball. Even so, Memphis is the better team on paper.

Something about this game screams "shootout" to me. I'm trying to pick the Tigers, I really am, but I think they get caught here. Coming off a big win against Kansas and into a hostile space against a decent (but easily overlooked) opponent, makes for the perfect trap-game setting.

Predicted record: 2-1


Cincinnati Bearcats (HOME; September 24th)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 9-4 (57)

Record against the Tigers: 13-19

Comments: Can we all agree that last season's 41-14 beatdown of the Bearcats was an anomaly? The games that followed showed the expectedly-explosive Cincinnati team was still present, and they salvaged a good season, with impressive wins over East Carolina and Houston. Standout junior quarterback Gunner Keil looks to be improved, making the already-potent offense even more of a threat.

I see two pretty evenly-matched teams here, with offensive firepower, and defensive questions. Without expecting anything like the blowout we saw last season, the home field advantage of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium will still see the Tigers emerge victorious.

Predicted record (conference): 3-1 (1-0)


USF Bulls (Away; October 2nd)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 4-8 (147)

Record against the Tigers: 3-4

Comments: Can Willie Taggart keep things rolling? In 2014, his Bulls doubled their win total from 2013, giving some hope. Looking at the raw win-loss records, USF reminds me of Memphis this time last year: two subpar seasons under a new head coach, with possibilities abounding in year three.

Yet, there are differences. Under Fuente, Memphis improved every year (sometimes, from game to game), and things finally clicked in 2014. For USF, it's hard to see the improvement through the muddy offense and porous defense.

Memphis stays perfect in conference.

Predicted record (conference): 4-1 (2-0)


BYE (October 10th)


Mississippi (HOME; October 17th)

Conference: SEC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 9-4 (8)

Record against the Tigers: 48-10

Comments: Bo Wallace is gone, so Memphis has a chance, right?

Not so fast, Tigerland. Though Ole Miss will break in a new quarterback for this upcoming season, they still possess the element that gave Memphis such problems in last year's loss: line strength. If you're feeling particularly masochistic, rewatch the 24-3 loss and look at those Rebel lines dominate. There's no reason to expect that to change, slightly-disappointing-yet-still-solid recruiting class notwithstanding.

The tailgating at Tiger Lane will set new standards of awesome. The Liberty Bowl will be full as a Thanksgivinged uncle. As for the game...anything can happen.

(But expect an L.)

Predicted record (conference): 4-2 (2-0)


Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Away; October 23rd)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 2-10 (165)

Record against the Tigers: 10-15

Comments: Man, that season-opening overtime win against Tulane was thrilling.

Yikes, the rest of the season was bad.

Here's another first-year head coach for Memphis to play against. Philip Montgomery has a nice pedigree (offensive coordinator at Baylor? Sweet!), but no one can make bricks without straw.

Though I wouldn't be surprised to see the Golden Hurricane substantially better than the last time they tangled with Memphis, there's no reason to expect a different result.

Predicted record (conference): 5-2 (3-0)


Tulane Green Wave (HOME; October 31st)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 3-9 (142)

Record against the Tigers: 11-19

Comments: Halloween game! Expect many tiger costumes (I imagine a green wave costume would be best achieved with a bed sheet and some food coloring, maybe?), and a Tiger victory.

Head Coach Curtis Johnson's squad ran into growing pains in their first year in the AAC, fielding a decent defense, but an offense that was immediately forgettable. Assuming that both improve in the off-season, this could be a surprisingly competitive game. I still like Memphis at home, though.

Predicted record (conference): 6-2 (4-0)

Navy Midshipmen (HOME; November 7th)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 8-5 (71)

Record against the Tigers: First meeting

Comments: This Navy team makes me nervous. I don't know any of the players, and I barely remember their Head Coach (Ken Niumatalolo, FYI, though I had to look up the spelling of his last name). But I recognize the system. That triple option Paul Johnson installed before departing for the Ramblin' Wreck is still reeking havoc.

Navy plays hard, runs their stuff, and counts on their opponents to not know how to prepare for it effectively.

Predicted record (conference): 6-3 (4-1)

Houston Cougars (Away; November 14th)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 8-5 (74)

Record against the Tigers: 14-9

Comments: Last year, Greg Ward Jr. sliced and diced the Tiger's defense in the Liberty Bowl. The Cougar defense forced quarterback Paxton Lynch into mistakes and turnovers, and Houston beat Memphis.

This year, Ward returns, but he should be somewhat easier to plan for as a known quantity. However, the Memphis defense looks to be in rebuilding mode, still giving Ward the edge. Though I doubt that year-older Lynch will make the same kind of mistakes as last year, the game is in Houston. That tips the scales to the Cougars.

Predicted record (conference): 6-4 (4-2)

Temple Owls (Away; November 21st)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 6-6 (87)

Record against the Tigers: 1-1

Comments: Call this one a redo. Same place, same teams, same stakes? According to my predictions, Memphis should already be eligible to go bowling at this point of the season, but, if Temple's recent history tells us anything, bowl eligible don't mean bowl bound.

I see Temple improving slightly, but not enough to make a difference here. Another last second field goal wins it for Memphis, maybe? Why not?

Predicted record (conference): 7-4 (5-2)

SMU Mustangs (HOME; November 28th)

Conference: AAC

2014 Final Record (Sagarin Ranking): 1-11 (207)

Record against the Tigers: 3-4

Comments: SMU was one of the worst teams in the nation last year, so even if first-year head coach Chad Morris' squad improves dramatically, they'll still be in pretty bad shape. This being a home game puts the upset out of reach.

The less said about this game, the better. Tigers win.

Predicted record (conference): 8-4 (6-2)

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So, there you have it. Expect a good season (not quite as good as its predecessor) and another bowl birth for the Memphis Tigers.