Start Time: Saturday, Sept. 23 7:00 p.m. CT
TV: WMC TV
Stream: Watch ESPN
Live Coverage: GoTigersGo.com/Listen, stats available at GoTigersGo.com
Location: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tennessee
The Series: First meeting
Memphis Outlook: When Memphis put this game on their schedule, they were probably just looking for a non-FBS school that they can smooth over after the UCLA game. With the Tigers upsetting the no. 25 Bruins, this game is just another opportunity for Memphis to improve as a team before conference play starts up.
The Tigers are coming off what could be their best win of the season and are playing at a level that forces opponents to raise their game. A large reason for their superior play is because of quarterback Riley Ferguson.
After throwing for 398 yards and six touchdowns against UCLA, Ferguson was awarded National Offensive Player of the Week honors from Athlon Sports, College Sports Madness and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Having compiled his eighth career game with 300 yards passing and second career six touchdown game, Ferguson is the only quarterback in school history to reach that milestone.
Not only has the passing game been the Tigers’ bread and butter this season, the running game has taken a weight off Ferguson and the offense. Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr., a pair of sophomore running backs, have led Memphis’ ground game. Henderson is second in the NCAA with 10.5 yards per carry while Taylor has 177 rushing yards on 27 carries.
Wide receiver Anthony Miller is still emerging as Ferguson’s no. 1 target, with the two connecting on 13 touchdown passes last season that was second-most in the FBS college football. Miller leads the team with 208 yards on 11 receptions with two touchdowns.
Along with tight end Joey Magnifico, who is second with 103 receiving yards, Ferguson has liable options in the passing game that has allowed the Tigers to a 2-0 start. Unlike their opponent last week, Southern Illinois does not provide that firepower to compete with the Tigers.
Southern Illinois Outlook: Southern Illinois comes into this game undefeated, but Memphis is the only FBS school that the Salukis play this season. Not saying that SIU will be unable to compete with the Tigers. The level that Memphis’ schedule is at, however, will be a wake up call to the Salukis.
The Salukis have a deep running game, with four different rushers scoring touchdowns this season. Daquon Isom leads Southern Illinois with 126 yards while D.J. Davis carries a 6.7 yards per carry average and is tied as the team leader for scores with two touchdowns.
While quarterback Sam Straub leads the passing game with six touchdowns, he has connected with five different receivers in the end zone. Darrell James leads that mark with two touchdowns and 127 yards on seven receptions.
Southern Illinois has not beaten an FBS school since defeating Indiana in Bloomington 35-28 on Sept. 16, 2006 and looks to spoil the party in Memphis on Saturday.
Prediction: Memphis is playing as well as anybody in the American and their offense is too dominant for the Salukis to handle. The Tigers can put up points in a hurry while Southern Illinois’ offense could be riding the struggle bus. This matchup looks to be in favor for Memphis and the Tigers will enjoy their homecoming night with another win before conference play.