Thursday, August 29, 2013

"American" Football Picks: Week 1

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 8:00 AM

The crystal ball has a new tint this season . . . or maybe that's just a smudge where the Conference USA logo used to be. I'll be offering a forecast of each week's slate of games in the new American Athletic Conference, the kind of information that can make you sound like an expert in the break room or among your favorite Tweeps. All in the name of fun, of course.

AAC_logo.jpg

Looking to continue a steady, if slight, progression toward perfection:

• 2010: 67-29
• 2011: 76-21
• 2012: 77-20

Check in every Thursday morning for the wisdom.

[winners in bold]

THURSDAY
Akron at UCF
Towson at UConn
Rutgers at Fresno State

FRIDAY
Texas Tech at SMU
Southern at Houston

SATURDAY
Temple at Notre Dame
McNeese State at USF
Purdue at Cincinnati

SUNDAY
Ohio at Louisville

Thursday, August 22, 2013

TTT Answer

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Among the fundamental goals of any college football program is to improve on the previous season. If the Tigers do so, they'll win (at least) five games this fall, which would give coach Justin Fuente (right) at least nine victories over his first two seasons.

Who was the last Memphis coach to win as many as nine games over his first two years on the sideline?

Seven Tiger coaches have come and gone since Richard Williamson won 14 games over the 1975 and 1976 seasons. The next highest win total since then for a coach's first two seasons is eight, by Tommy West (2001 and 2002).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

American Athletic Conference Releases Basketball Schedule

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Mark 'em down, folks. Here are the dates for the Tigers' upcoming schedule in "The American."

December 31 — at USF

January 4 — Cincinnati
January 9 — at Louisville
January 11 — at Temple
January 16 — UConn
January 23 — Houston
January 26 — USF
January 29 — at UCF

AAC_logo.jpg

February 1 — at SMU
February 4 — Rutgers
February 12 — UCF
February 15 — at UConn
February 20 — at Rutgers
February 22 — Temple
February 27 — at Houston

March 1 — Louisville
March 6 — at Cincinnati
March 8 — SMU

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tiger Trivia Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Among the fundamental goals of any college football program is to improve on the previous season. If the Tigers do so, they'll win (at least) five games this fall, which would give coach Justin Fuente (at least) nine victories over his first two seasons.

Who was the last Memphis coach to win as many as nine games over his first two years on the sideline?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TTT Answer

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Five members of the 2013 Tiger football team started all twelve games a year ago: Jacob Karam (QB), Al Bond (OL), Charles Harris (LB), Anthony Brown (LB), and Bobby McCain (CB).

Among active Tigers, who has the most career starts?

McCain has 21 starts to his credit, followed by Bond and safety Lonnie Ballentine with 19 each.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tiger Trivia Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Five members of the 2013 Tiger football team started all twelve games a year ago: Jacob Karam (QB), Al Bond (OL), Charles Harris (LB), Anthony Brown (LB), and Bobby McCain (CB).

Among active Tigers, who has the most career starts?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Three Questions About Memphis Tiger Football

Posted By on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 at 8:49 AM

The University of Memphis football team reports to training camp this week, its first gathering as a member of the new American Athletic Conference. Which has me wondering . . .

• Does momentum hibernate?
Four-game winning streaks happen in these parts slightly more often than mayoral turnover at city hall. Since Rip Scherer took over the Tiger program before the 1995 season — a span of 18 years — Memphis has won four consecutive games exactly twice, both during the DeAngelo Williams era (one streak bridged the 2003 and 2004 seasons). For only the second time since 1989, Memphis will start a season having won its last three the previous year. (The Tigers opened the 2006 campaign with a loss at Ole Miss on their way to a 2-10 season.)

Can the positive vibe of last year’s finish be carried over to a new season, a new team flush with first-year players? Junior cornerback Bobby McCain equivocates in his answer: “We want to start the season like we ended last year. But we have to forget [the winning streak] and start a new era. We’d like to carry someone off the field after a bowl game. It’s a new beginning in Memphis Tiger football.”

Coach Justin Fuente feels like the late success of 2012 can be a reminder of what’s to come, but there remains a steep climb for this program. Remember, they finished with a record of 4-8. “There are rewards out there,” he says, “if we prepare the right way. But none of those points [from last year] count. It’s a new season, against new teams.”

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• Jacob Karam can melt hearts. Can he shred a secondary?
The senior quarterback started all 12 games a year ago and, after his heart-squeezing piano performance last month at St. Jude, is surely the easiest Tiger to cheer. He tossed 14 touchdown passes last season and only three interceptions in 274 attempts. So he’ll be the face of the Memphis offense, right?

Not so fast. Last month I asked Fuente if a quarterback competition is open for training camp and he said, “very open.” Redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch (6’6”, 225 lbs) brings physical tools to the position Karam can’t match. According to senior center Antonio Foster, “[Lynch] is fast; has those long strides. And he’s an accurate thrower.” Furthermore, Fuente says junior Eric Mathews — third on the current depth chart — “throws the ball better than anyone gives him credit for.”

It’s been six years since a Tiger quarterback has held the position for two seasons (Martin Hankins in 2006 and ’07). Whether or not Karam can retain the signal-calling duties will be a matter strictly of his performance on the field. Needless to say, the senior is fairly bursting with those fabled “intangibles.” Just ask anyone at St. Jude. Or Foster, for that matter. “Jacob is a leader,” says the man who snapped him the ball most of last season. “He never quits. It’s what we needed last year. His composure is always up.”

• What do the experts know?
In the AAC media poll released last week, the Tigers received 47 voter points, dead last among the league’s ten teams. (Louisville is the prohibitive favorite to win the conference title. The Cardinals received 28 of 30 first-place votes, the other two going to Cincinnati.) Considering none of the four teams Memphis beat last season appear on this year’s schedule, why would voters think any better of the Tigers’ chances this fall?

But here’s the rub. Beyond a national champion from the SEC, nothing in college football is certain before Labor Day. I’m guessing none of those voters has seen Mose Frazier or Joe Craig in action, a pair of fleet-footed first-year receivers who may stretch opposing defenses in ways last year’s Tiger team could not. And I know the voters haven’t considered the seven-man battle royal getting ready to take place for playing time at tailback. Brandon Hayes and Jai Steib are back, but they’ll be competing with four freshmen and a sophomore for carries on Saturday. Says Fuente, “Last year it was just getting guys [on the field] who would work hard and have a good attitude. Now, it’s legitimate competition, and not just to play, but to play well.”

The Tigers open their season September 7th at the Liberty Bowl against Duke.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

TTT Answer

Posted By on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Memphis guard Chris Crawford will enter his senior season with 166 career three-pointers and 172 career steals. If Crawford matches his totals from last season in each category (71 treys and 54 steals), where will he rank in Tiger history on these two charts?

With 237 three-pointers, Crawford would climb to fourth in Tiger history, behind Rodney Carney (287), Anthony Rice (242), and Doneal Mack (239). And with 226 steals, the pride of Sheffield High School would also rank fourth, behind Chris Garner (321), Elliot Perry (304), and Andre Turner (272).

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