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2018 Memphis Tigers Season Preview

New faces will play an integral role on a talented team.

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

For as magical of a season that the UCF Knights had in 2017, it was almost in jeopardy. Memphis gave them a scare, but an interception in overtime ended the threat. Mike Norvell has a dangerous team once again, and the Tigers could be up for another run. One thing is for sure, there’s more than likely one game circled on the calendar this year.

Offense

Top Players to watch: RB Darrell Henderson, RB Patrick Taylor Jr., WR/RB Tony Pollard, OT Trevon Tate, C Drew Kyser

We’ve reached a new era offensively for the Tigers. Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller lit up scoreboards last season, but both are off to the NFL. Is that concerning? Sure it is, but it’s not like there isn’t any returning talent. Henderson and Taylor are as good of a combination in the backfield as anyone in the country. Pollard is dynamic wherever he lines up on the field. Tate and Kyser lead an experienced offensive line group, which will be extremely valuable with a new quarterback entering the picture.

Defense

Top Players to watch: NT O’Bryan Goodson, KAT Jackson Dillon, LB Curtis Akins, STAR Austin Hall, CB TJ Carter

This was a young group last season, and it should be the most experienced in the conference in 2018. If Memphis wants to replicate or improve upon its 2017 success, the defense needs to improve. Goodson has the talent to be a force up the middle, and he has underrated speed. Dillon returns from injury last year and will be a valuable leader for this still relatively young group. He will be joined by another leader in Akins, who led the team in tackles last year. Hall was a blooming star towards the end of the season, and Carter is arguably the best corner in the conference. The talent is there, but now it’s time for this Tigers defense to produce.

Special Teams

If you haven’t heard by now, Tony Pollard is the best kick returner in college football. He averaged 40 yards per return last year, including four return touchdowns. Teams know not to kick to him, but he still somehow finds a way to make an impact. A new punter will be needed as no one with any experience returns. Kicker Riley Patterson was solid on extra points, but needs some work on his field goals.

Five things that went well in 2017

  • Riley Ferguson to Anthony Miller.
  • Blocking up front.
  • The Henderson/Taylor combination.
  • Stunning UCLA.
  • Retaining Mike Norvell in the offseason.

Five things that will lead to success in 2018

  • Improvement from the defense as a whole.
  • Solid quarterback play.
  • Revenge on UCF
  • Replacing Anthony Miller’s production.
  • Continued offensive explosiveness.

Schedule

9/1/18 Mercer

9/8/18 @ Navy

9/14/18 Georgia State

9/22/18 South Alabama

9/28/18 @ Tulane

10/6/18 UConn

10/13/18 UCF

10/20/18 @ Missouri

11/3/18 @ ECU

11/10/18 Tulsa

11/16/18 @ SMU

11/23/18 Houston

Analysis & Predictions

Non-Conference Play

Goergia State, South Alabama and Mercer shouldn’t be difficult at all. The Missouri road trip will be the big test. The other Tigers will score a lot of points, which will test Memphis’ defense. Memphis has the talent to keep up, but a shootout may not be ideal.

Conference Play

Week 2 brings Navy, and should give this defense a unique challenge early. Memphis has a couple six day weeks this season. Once before they play Tulane and the other before SMU. Both are on the road. Memphis gets a shot at revenge against UCF at home and also hosts Houston, a team they barely squeaked by last year. USF and Temple aren’t on the schedule, so the conference play doesn’t appear to be too daunting.

Prediction

The games in question for Memphis: Tulane, UCF, Missouri, SMU, and Houston. It really depends on the quarterback and the defense. It’s tough to see them winning four or even all five of these games, so 3-2 or even 2-3 might be realistic. Luckily for Norvell’s team, they have time to create new chemistry.

My pick: Memphis goes 9-3