Game-By-Game Predictions for Memphis' 2014 Season
But that would be unfair to both he and his players, because although the record didn’t show it, they took a significant step forward.
You see, in 2012, Memphis was beaten by an average of 18.9 points in its eight losses, compared to 12.6 in 2013 (including the two-game collapse to in the season where it lost to Temple and Connecticut by a combined 55 points).
While competition was similar jumping from the C-USA to the AAC, it’s no argument that the latter was still better. Going toe-to-toe with quality bowl teams like Duke, Middle Tennessee, Central Florida, Houston, Cincinnati and Louisville means a whole lot more than beating UAB 46-9.
So the big question is: Can Fuente lead Memphis out of the darkness and achieve the program’s first bowl bid since 2008? With a ton of experience back on both sides of the ball, it’s very possible.
Let’s break down the Tigers’ difficult 2014 schedule with game-by-game predictions:
8/30 – vs. Austin Peay: WIN
The Governors finished winless in the FCS last season and were held to 10 points or less 10 different times. Memphis’ defense will get a shut out in the opener en route to a 30-point win.
9/6 – at UCLA: LOSS
With plenty of returning experience at every position, Memphis will certainly improve in all aspects of the game. But UCLA is a national title contender, and the Tigers don’t have the talent or depth to compete at this level.
9/20 – vs. Middle Tennessee: WIN
Memphis hasn’t beaten Rick Stockstill’s crew since 2010. With the Blue Raiders heading into a transitioning period, the streak ends here.
9/27 – at Ole Miss: LOSS
For a program that has just four bowl wins in its history, facing UCLA and Ole Miss on the road in a three-week span could be detrimental. They’ll be beat up, but as long as they can take positives and learn from these losses, the Tigers will be well-prepared for anything the AAC has to throw at them.
10/4 – at Cincinnati: LOSS
Memphis kept Cincinnati close at home last season, but ultimately fell apart because the offense couldn’t score enough. The Tigers will still be healing from their matchups with UCLA and Ole Miss, so I don’t expect this one to be as close.
10/11 – vs. Houston: LOSS
Same thing here. Houston is back on the rise and could be one of the more dangerous teams in the nation up the seam and outside the numbers with its plethora of deep-threat options, and Memphis really struggled to contain big plays against the pass game.
10/25 – at SMU: WIN
Finally, a bye week! Fuente should be able to give his team a few days off to recover from a brutal stretch and prepare for the second half of the season, which is much more favorable. The Tigers were down 34-3 by halftime of last year’s matchup with SMU, but found a late spark to rally and cut the lead to 11 with 5:23 remaining (they scored on the final play of the game to lose 34-29). With a new quarterback and huge questions on defense, I don’t see the Mustangs being able to find the hot start they did in 2013.
10/31 – vs. Tulsa: WIN
Thanks to Martin Ifedi, Ricky Hunter, and Terry Redden, Memphis owned one of the best defensive lines in the conference last season, forcing opponents to be relatively one-dimensional with the nation’s 12th-best run defense (116.3 yards allowed per game). All three are back. With an improved pass rush, I don’t expect an offensively challenged Tulsa to hang around for very long.
11/7 – at Temple: LOSS
Temple has a rising star at quarterback in P.J. Walker, who had his best game of his young career in the season finale at Memphis. Walker torched the secondary for 328 yards and four touchdowns, and with two big question marks at the safety positions, those numbers could easily be repeated.
11/15 – at Tulane: LOSS
Memphis returns four upperclassmen at receiver, its starting running back, and 102 starts along the offensive line. Therefore, 6-foot-6, 225-pound sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch will be the deciding factor in Memphis’ ceiling for success. The Tigers scored 17.5 points on average against Top-20 scoring defenses in 2013, and Tulane’s ranked No. 18. Expect it to be close, but the Green Wave should take this one, 27-20(ish).
11/22 – vs. South Florida: WIN
USF’s sputtering offense will have made some progress by late November, but it won’t be enough to overcome a formidable Memphis front seven.
11/29 – vs. Connecticut: WIN
At this point, UConn won’t be anywhere near bowl contention and everyone but the seniors will be ready to hang up the cleats for the offseason. Memphis, on the other hand, will be seeking revenge and hungry for bowl eligibility.
2014 Memphis Projected Record: 6-6 (4-4)
What do you think about these Memphis predictions? Hit me up on Twitter!