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Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Wake Forest Preview

New coordinators, new running back? No problem for Memphis

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, December 22nd

Time: 11:00am CT

Watch: ESPN/WatchESPN

Line: Memphis -3.5


Transitions are never easy, but they’re becoming the norm for the Memphis Tigers. Mike Norvell lost both of his coordinators and his starting running back this offseason, but he hasn’t looked back. Norvell has said that he’s building something special at Memphis, and he continues to show that he loves being the Tigers head coach. After a surprising return to the AAC Championship Game, Memphis looks to finish the year with a win over an ACC opponent. They will try to do so with some new faces.

Darrell Henderson had a career year in 2018, and decided to turn his attention to the NFL. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham took the same job at Auburn, and defensive coordinator Chris Ball took the head coaching vacancy at Northern Arizona. Norvell is used to losing coaches, but that hasn’t affected him. Both sides of the ball will be just fine.

Patrick Taylor Jr. quietly rushed for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this year. How do you quietly do that? When the guy ahead of you rushes for nearly 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. Taylor has been behind Henderson his whole career, but now it’s his time to shine. He will be responsible for keeping Memphis offense operating at a high level against a Wake Forest team that allows nearly 200 rushing yards per game. The Tigers should be successful on Saturday offensively, but it’s the defense that will be tested.

If you haven’t heard about Greg Dortch, you will soon enough. Dortch is a dynamic receiver for the Demon Deacons who also returns punts and kicks. He’s dangerous at all three positions, so Memphis will have to be aware of where he is at all times. It may be an easier task with backup Jamie Newman starting after Sam Hartman went down with an injury. The rushing attack led by Cade Carney might be relied upon to help Newman. Carney needs 46 yards to eclipse 1,000 yards for the season.

Prediction

Memphis went from a favorite to down-and-out to potential champion all within this season. Losing two coordinators and a star aren’t anything that will affect the Tigers, and beating a Power 5 opponent will be their goal. If Memphis can avoid the flat start offensively that they suffered against Iowa State last year in the Liberty Bowl, they will have a great chance of meeting their goal.

Memphis 38 Wake Forest 35