FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,008) — Memphis,
Tennessee. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Houston 2-2, Memphis 2-0. Away
Record: Houston 0-1, Memphis 1-2. Neutral Record: Houston 0-0, Memphis 0-0.
Conference Record: Houston 0-1, Memphis 1-0. Series Record: Houston leads,
GAME NOTES: An American Athletic Conference rivalry will be renewed on
Saturday night, as the Houston Cougars visit the Memphis Tigers at Liberty
Bowl Memorial Stadium.
These teams clashed for years as league foes in Conference USA before
transitioning to the AAC last season. In their first meeting in the new
league, the Cougars pulled out a 25-15 victory at home. As a result, UH leads
the all-time series, 13-9.
Houston got its league schedule started last Thursday, but fell short in a
17-12 decision at home against UCF. The loss was the third in five games for
Memphis has played quite a difficult first five games and has done so with
relative success. The Tigers are 3-2 overall with their two losses coming
against ranked squads in UCLA (42-35) and Ole Miss (24-3). They put on quite a
performance last Saturday in their AAC opener, battering Cincinnati on the
The regression of John O’Korn has been well documented this season. The
Houston quarterback is completing just 51.7 percent of his passes for 944
yards. He has had an efficiency rating below 100 in three of five games, and
has eight interceptions compared to six touchdowns. He played one of his worst
games of the season against UCF, completing just 12-of-26 attempts for 98
yards to go with two interceptions before Greg Ward was called upon.
O’Korn’s woes have cut into the production of talented wideout Deontay
Greenberry, who has still managed to accumulate 323 yards and two touchdowns
on 21 receptions. However, he has only four catches for 43 yards in the last
two games. Daniel Spencer (24 receptions, 236 yards, two TDs) has also been
slowed recently, with seven total catches against UNLV and UCF.
The two-man backfield of Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson has been productive
for the Cougars. Farrow leads the team with 321 yards and two scores on 48
carries, while Jackson has 249 yards on 35 carries. The duo combined for 103
yards on 17 attempts against UCF after both eclipsed the century mark the
Overall, the Cougars have left quite a bit to be desired, averaging only 27.6
points and 375 yards per game.
On defense, Houston is still doing a good job of forcing turnovers, with the
second-most takeaways in the AAC (14). However, the team has a turnover margin
that is not particularly impressive (+1). In terms of yardage and points
allowed, the Cougars have performed admirably (18.2 ppg, 313.6 ypg).
Efrem Oliphant (57 tackles) and Derrick Mathews (49 tackles, 2.0 sacks) give
the team plenty of punch up front, but the pass rush is lacking, with only
nine sacks as a team.
While Houston is regressing on offense, the Tigers have made great strides.
They are averaging 35.6 points and 441.6 yards per game. They rank second in
the AAC in total offense, and third in scoring.
At the forefront of the offensive rejuvenation is Paxton Lynch, who has taken
one of the largest steps forward of any quarterback in the league. In total he
has completed 62.3 percent of his pass attempts for 1,158 yards and seven
touchdowns, compared to three interceptions. Lynch absolutely tore Cincinnati
apart, completing 18-of-25 pass attempts for 311 yards and two scores. Lynch
can also make plays on the ground, with a team-high five rushing touchdowns to
Running the football is an important part of Memphis’ offense, and the Tigers
lead the AAC in rushing (210 ypg) and are actually the only team in the league
with more than 1,000 yards on the ground. Sam Craft (252 yards, three TDs),
Doroland Dorceus (237 yards, four TDs) and Brandon Hayes (197 yards, TD) work
together to fuel the rushing attack.
Keiwone Malone (21 receptions, 275 yards) is the team’s best receiving threat.
He had only 15 yards on two catches against Cincinnati, but had at least 50
yards in the first four games. Tevin Jones caught five passes for 70 yards and
a score in the UC game. Tight end Alan Cross (10 receptions, 161 yards, three
TDs) is a valuable target as well.
Memphis has been most impressive on defense, allowing only 19.4 points and
357.8 yards per game. The Tigers are third in the AAC in scoring defense and
among the top-five in yards allowed. They have been outstanding in creating
negative plays with the AAC lead in tackles for loss (36) and sacks (14),
sharing the latter with UCF.
Tank Jakes (43, tackles, 12.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) leads the conference in both
tackles for loss and sacks. He is also the only player on the roster with more
than 23 total stops.
Both of these teams play their best on the defensive side of the ball with
Houston’s ability to create turnovers and Memphis’ strength in getting into
the backfield. The difference will be on offense, where Memphis isn’t flashy
but is more consistent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 27, Houston 17