The Memphis Tigers football team kick off their 2021 season in approximately three days. They will host Nichols State at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis comes off a season that witness turnover in numerous positions such as quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.
Many impact players opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepared for the 2021 NFL Draft. Because of numerous player opt-outs, the Tigers’ production on offense regressed to a certain extent.
The result was not a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance but a bowl victory that capped off the Tigers’ regular season with an 8-3 record. With quarterback Brady White no longer at the helm, a new era of football is underway. Today, we preview and predict the 2021 regular season for the Memphis Tigers football team.
Previewing the Offense
When players such as Kenneth Gainwell, Damonte Coaxie, Patrick Taylor, and Antonio Gibson were no longer a part of the offense, you saw how limited the Tigers were from a production standpoint. They could still score many points against their opponents, but it was nowhere near the efficiency that we witnessed in 2019. From a positive aspect, Memphis has demonstrated that they are a team loaded with depth at skill positions.
Now that those players have a year of experience playing key roles, they should be ready to take their game to another level in 2021. Wide receiver Calvin Austin lll, Sean Dykes, Rodrigues Clark, and Kylan Watkins will be expected to be core players in an offense that is known for their ability to score points.
The biggest question mark for the Tigers offense will be at the quarterback position. Arizona transfer Grant Gunnell is projected to become the new starting QB, but Head Coach Ryan Silverfield has yet to confirm that decision. Silverfield has stated that the Tigers will utilize a two-quarterback system for the time being until a clear starter can be named.
The Memphis coaching staff must recognize a viable option for the position before the showdown with Mississippi State. Not having the right person under center versus the Bulldogs could be a recipe for disaster. Outside of that, Memphis has the personnel on offense that can contend with the AAC’s best teams.
Previewing the Defense
On the defensive of the ball, the Tigers bring back nine starters from last year’s unit. The Memphis defense was one of the AAC’s best groups. The Tigers ranked third in the conference with the fewest points allowed in a game (27.9) and limited teams to 5.7 yards a snap. Safety Quindell Johnson adds another level of dominance in an already talented backfield. Memphis will have to minimize the big-play abilities that can come from opposing offenses. In 2020 the Tigers defense gave up 12 plays of 40-plus yards last season.
Must-See Games in 2021
1. Mississippi State: September 18 (Home)
2. Tulsa: October 9 (Away)
3. UCF: October 22 (Away)
4. Houston: November 19 (Away)
Predicted 2021 Record: 10-3
The Tigers will finish the season with a 10-3 record. While that may not be enough for a major bowl game appearance, they finish the season on a positive note. Depending on how the other teams within the conference perform, Memphis could find themselves back in the AAC championship game. However, all of this is going to depend on how the marquee players on this team respond in big games such as Mississippi State, Tulsa, Cincinnati, and Houston.
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Photo courtesy of the USA Today.