After losing their season opener on the road to Mississippi State, the Memphis Tigers went on a four-game winning streak and are now in first place in the American Athletic Conference. Regardless of how the Tigers did it, they defeated the teams they were expected to beat. Now that the softer portion of their schedule is out of the way, the Tigers head into a gauntlet of tough matchups. First on deck is the Houston Cougars.
However, the game has to turn into a must-win situation for the Cougars. Before the season started, Houston was picked as the favorite to win the AAC in 2022. So far, that has not been the case. Houston has a record of 2-3 and is near the bottom of the standings in the conference. Their most recent defeat was a shocking thriller against the Tulane Green Wave in overtime.
The Green Wave was down to their third-string QB when they went on the road to knockoff the Cougars in overtime. A win on the road against Memphis can change the trajectory of their season. That’s why Friday’s game between the two teams is so important. Here are three things to watch for in the Tigers’ huge matchup against the Cougars.
What to Watch For
The Tigers Method of Attack
It will be interesting to see how Memphis will attack the Cougars in the opening moments of Friday’s matchup. In their first five games, Houston has shown that they are not a team with an efficient defense. They have not been effective against the pass nor the rush. The flow of how Memphis will attack those areas will dictate how the rest of the game will play out. Over the last few weeks, the Tigers have utilized a conservative approach to win football games. The offense has yet to exhibit its explosive playmaking ability. Their QB Seth Henigan has not passed for at least 300 yards in two weeks.
The Health of the Offensive Line
In last week’s games against the Temple Owls, the Tigers missed two critical offensive line members who did not play because of injuries. Jonah Gamble and Austin Meyers were injured in the previous matchup against North Texas. Not having their presence against Temple was evident. Hennigan was sacked four times and only threw for 195 yards against a highly ranked Temple defense. Will efficient pass protection for Henigan lead to a better offense flow against Houston? If so, then there should be no reason he does not look more aggressive throwing down the field compared to the previous two weeks.
Crowd Size Factor
The crowd size at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium is relatively small. For the games against North Texas and Temple, attendance numbers were 23,203 and 23,239. There has been an ongoing debate as to why the crowds at the stadium have been so low. Many have attributed factors such as viewing habits and lack of playing against big-time opponents. Memphis can do its best to continue to win the games they are expected to win and perform at an exceptionally high level against the AAC’s best teams. That’s the only way the fans will start noticing what they have in the Memphis Tigers football program. A win over Houston on Friday puts the Tigers at 5-1 and could bring back the program’s vibe in 2019.
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