Riding a four-game win streak and sitting atop
the American Athletic Conference standings, Memphis has a lot to be
excited about. Still, coach Justin Fuente has some words of caution as the
Tigers prepare to host South Florida on Saturday. "Here's
the deal: If all you do is spend your time thinking about the good things down
the road, then you're going to lose sight of what gave you the opportunity to
be in that situation to begin with,” Fuente said at his weekly news conference.
“(We need to) stay focused on the process, on the task at hand.”
Memphis can clinch at least a share of the AAC
title with wins Saturday and the following week against visiting Connecticut.
Meanwhile, it’s even more imperative that South Florida wins out as the 4-6
Bulls are seeking to end a three-year postseason drought. South Florida closes
out the season Nov. 28 with a home date against rival Central Florida.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPNews. LINE: Memphis -18.5
ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA (4-6, 3-3 AAC): The Bulls scored
two late touchdowns to clip host SMU 14-13 last week but have dropped four of
their last six overall. Mike White came off the bench in the fourth quarter
last week to replace freshman starting quarterback Quinton Flowers – the third
quarterback to start for the team this season – and threw the two game-winning
TD passes, but coach Willie Taggart is keeping Saturday’s starter close to the
vest for now. The Bulls rank ninth in the 11-team conference in total offense
at 306 yards per game but are tops in total defense (296.3 ypg).
ABOUT MEMPHIS (7-3, 5-1): Defense has been the
calling card of late for the opportunistic Tigers, who forced a season-high five
turnovers last week – including a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns
– in a 38-7 road win over Tulane. Overall, Memphis leads the AAC and ranks among
the top 12 nationally in scoring defense (17.5 ppg) and turnover margin
(plus-12). Quarterback Paxton Lynch has a team-high eight rushing TDs to go
along with his 12 passing scores, while tailback Brandon Hayes is averaging
72.6 rushing yards per game to rank fourth in the conference.
1. The series is knotted at three wins apiece
following Memphis’ 23-10 road victory last season.
2. The Tigers are bowl-eligible for the first
time since 2008.
3. South Florida freshman RB Marlon Mack
leads the AAC with 90.7 rushing yards per game and needs 93 yards to notch the
fourth 1,000-yard rushing season in the program’s history.
PREDICTION: Memphis 24, South Florida 10