Buoyed by solid efforts in non-conference road losses to ranked teams, Memphis was hoping to use that springboard to make its mark in the American Athletic Conference and post a winning season for the first time since 2007. They opened the conference with an impressive 41-14 thumping at Cincinnati, but the Tigers committed five turnovers -- two in the final minutes that thwarted potential game-winning drives -- in a 28-24 loss to Houston on Oct. 11. Memphis had a week off to stew over the disappointment, and it appears the Tigers could have the perfect bounce-back candidate Saturday when they visit struggling Southern Methodist.
No team has had a more disastrous season than the Mustangs, who have dropped all six contests by an average score of 48- 6.5 and lost coach June Jones to resignation after their second game. The Mustangs rank last in the nation in scoring offense and defense, and their minus-41.5 point differential trails 124th-ranked Eastern Michigan by almost 17 points. SMU, which went to four bowls in the past five years under Jones, has been outscored 71-3 in the first quarter and 176-13 in the first half.
TV: Noon, ET, ESPN News. LINE: Memphis --23
ABOUT MEMPHIS (3-3, 1-1 AAC): The Tigers have alternated wins and losses during their first six games with two of the losses coming against then-11th-ranked UCLA (42-35) and current-No. 3 Mississippi (24-3). The Tigers are third in the conference in scoring (33.7), and Paxton Lynch is completing 63.8 percent of his passes with a 132.8 passer efficiency rating - third best in the AAC. Linebacker Tank Jakes, who leads the conference in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (12), could have a field day against an offense that has allowed 35 sacks – almost six per game.
ABOUT SOUTHERN METHODIST (0-6, 0-2): The Mustangs are coming off a 41-3 home loss to Cincinnati in which they turned the ball over four times. Walk-on Garrett Krstich is completing 56.6 percent of his passes, but the junior averages fewer than 10 yards a completion and his 99.3 passer efficiency rating is 92nd of 93rd in the nation among quarterbacks with 150 pass attempts. Southern Methodist is averaging 1.9 yards per rush with Kevin Pope leading the team with 105 yards on 34 carries.
1. The teams have split six games all-time with SMU -- winning the last three by a combined 120-42, including last year's contest 34-29.
2. The Tigers average a league-best 195.8 yards rushing per game and have been splitting carries between Sam Craft (301 yards), Brandon Hayes (231) and Jarvis Cooper (171) since starter Doroland Dorceus (237) went down for the season with a leg injury during the Mississippi game.
3. The Memphis defense has accounted for two touchdowns this season – two less than the entire SMU team.
PREDICTION: Memphis 45, SMU 10