Date: Thursday, August 31, 2017
Kickoff Time: 8:00 PM CT
Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (Memphis, TN)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Series Record: Series is tied 1-1
Spread: Memphis -26
Year 2 under Mike Norvell is about to begin, and Memphis is looking to get off to a hot start. This team has a lot of potential to be one of the best in the conference, and it’s finally time to see what they can do. Starting off at home will ease any first game jitters that players may have, and it should result in a strong performance for the Tigers.
UL-Monroe returns 16 starters from a team that went 4-8 in 2016. Quarterback Garrett Smith was a two year starter coming into this year, but was beaten by sophomore Caleb Evans. Head coach Matt Viator has indicated that both will play in this game, so the competition appears to be ongoing.
While Memphis’ strength is passing offense, they must be careful against a Warhawks secondary that helped their defense finish 56th in passing defense last season. Wesley Thompson and Marcus Hubbard will be two players that Tigers’ quarterback Riley Ferguson needs to keep his eye on.
The Warhawks have their hands full, and stopping Memphis won’t be an easy task. Ferguson could be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and there isn’t a shortage of weapons surrounding him. Even with the loss of Sam Craft for the season, the receivers are loaded. Anthony Miller was the leading receiver in the conference last year, and he has Phil Mayhue and Tony Pollard returning as well. Dorolan Dorceus, Darrell Henderson, and Patrick Taylor Jr have the potential to be dangerous out of the backfield, and will run behind one of the most experienced offensive lines in the conference.
Defensively, the Tigers will use this game to find their starters at various positions. Linebacker shouldn’t be a concern with Genard Avery and Curtis Akins returning, and safety Jonathan Cook should be a vital piece in the secondary after leading the team in tackles last season.
Memphis’ offense is loaded despite losing Craft for the season, and the Warhawks are in trouble if they can’t find a way to stop them. It’s the first game, so the Tigers should expect a battle in the beginning of the game. That shouldn’t last long as Memphis has superior talent, and should easily pull away in the end.
Prediction: Memphis 42 UL-Monroe 10