The University of Memphis football team returns to American Athletic Conference play Friday when they go on the road to face off against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The Tigers will hope to extend their program record-winning streak to 14 games, and move up in both polls for the second consecutive week. The Daily Helmsman asked its’ two sports reporters Austin Reynolds and J.T. Mullen for their thoughts on Friday’s game and if Memphis fans can start dreaming about an undefeated season.
DH: The Tigers have already established themselves as a slow-starting team. Is Memphis doomed for another slow start Friday against Tulsa?
AR: Memphis has played six games and fallen behind by 10 or more in four of them. I normally wouldn't expect the Tigers to have a slow start since Tulsa's defense is so bad, but facing a poor defense didn't stop Memphis from falling behind early to Kansas and Bowling Green, so a slow start wouldn't shock me.
JM: It’s tough to predict anything else with the way the Tigers have started games this season, but Tulsa has not looked good defensively at all this season—giving up 525 yards per game—so I expect both teams to get hot offensively, immediately out of the gate.
DH: What will be the keys for another Memphis victory? Are there any concerns for Tiger fans regarding Tulsa?
AR: The concern is that Tulsa has a top 10 offense in the nation, so the key for the Tigers will be to keep the Golden Hurricane under 40 points. Tulsa is 2-0 this year when breaking the 40-point barrier and 1-3 when falling under that mark. Tulsa's defense couldn't tackle a traffic cone, so scoring shouldn't be an issue for Memphis. The Tigers won't be able to stop Tulsa's offense, but they need to do just enough to keep it from being a tightly contested shootout.
JM: There should definitely be concerns for Tiger fans as this is probably the biggest trap game on the Tigers’ schedule. Tulsa has one of the best offenses in the country, racking up more than 550 yards per game. The Golden Hurricane passing attack can go toe-to-toe with any defense in the country. If the Tigers hope to come away with the win, the defense will have to continue to improve and show that resilience and grit they played with against Ole Miss last week.
DH: When will it be time to bring up the "12-0" talk? And realistically how far can this Tigers team go, postseason wise (AAC Championship game, bowl game, etc.)?
AR: I wouldn't even mention 12-0 unless Memphis is able to get past Houston on Nov. 14. Both teams should be in the top 25 for that matchup, it's in Houston and the Tigers will likely be underdogs. And even if Memphis is able to beat Houston, they have to face a very good Navy team the week before that game and a currently undefeated Temple team the week after. I'm not quite convinced Temple is as good as their top 25 ranking suggests, but it's a conference road game against a solid opponent, which is always tough. As for how far the Tigers can go, an AAC championship is entirely within their grasp, and if they're able to secure that they should also get into a New Year’s Six bowl game.
JM: Realistically the sky is the limit for this team. Especially if the defense continues to improve and perform like it did against Ole Miss. I believe Memphis will win the AAC and be in a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Tigers know how to perform under pressure and as the defense gets better, the Tigers are getting harder and harder to beat. That being said, I don’t like the 12-0 talk this early in the year. We are just now passing the midway point on the Tigers’ season and the toughest stretch—Navy, at No. 21 Houston and at No. 22 Temple—is still two games away. I believe Memphis is fully capable of going undefeated through the regular season, but I like coach Justin Fuente’s mantra of going “1-0 each week,” to keep his team focused on the task at hand.
Led by coach Justin Fuente and quarterback Paxton Lynch, the Tigers haven’t lost in more than a year (13 games).