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Helmsman roundtable: No. 25 Memphis vs. No. 16 Houston

After a weeklong hiatus, the Helmsman roundtable is back. Of course, a lot has changed in the past two weeks as the Memphis football team (8-1) now enters its matchup with the Houston Cougars (9-0) needing a win to stay in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game discussion. We asked Daily Helmsman sports reporters Austin Reynolds and J.T. Mullen on their thoughts ahead of tomorrow’s game.

How weird a game week has it been coming off a Tigers' loss? Memphis football had gone 393 days between losses before losing to Navy. 

AR: Eh, I shifted gears pretty quickly. It was pretty weird actually being at the Liberty Bowl and seeing Navy dish out that 45-20 destruction of the Tigers, but once it's done it's done.

JM: It's been really strange. It's been so long since the Tigers have lost a game and it just doesn't feel right coming off of a loss. It's been hard to adjust the focus to the Houston matchup.

Who is the better quarterback in this matchup (at the college level) Paxton Lynch or Greg Ward Jr.? 

AR: That's a really, really tough question. Lynch is the better pro prospect, but at the college level I'm thinking that I'd actually give the slight edge to Ward, just because his legs are such a weapon. We talk about how Lynch "can" run, but it's not really his game. He can just do it when he needs to. Ward, on the other hand, is a run-first guy who has rushed for more than 800 yards and 16 touchdowns, which is just completely ridiculous, and he's doing that while still completing over 70 percent of his passes. He's a walking nightmare.

JM: Greg Ward Jr. is an incredible player, but I'm rolling with Paxton. His decision-making and completion percentage have been fantastic all season long. He makes NFL caliber passes over and over again.

Is there anyway the Tigers' defense can slow down Houston's offense? Can Houston's defense slow down the Memphis offense?

AR: Can the Tigers slow down Houston's offense? I highly, highly doubt it. Memphis' defense has been strong at times this season, such as in the win over Ole Miss, but for the most part it's been a disaster. Houston's offense is legit, and Memphis' defense is... well, it's on the total opposite end of the spectrum.

Can Houston's defense slow down Memphis' offense? I say yes, to an extent. The Cougars won't be able to stop Memphis' offense, but they should be able to slow it down some. Houston hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 31 points this season. I think Memphis will get more than 31, but can they get to 40? To win the Tigers will probably have to, and Houston hasn't given up close to that number yet this season.

JM: I don't think either defense will look great in this matchup. I expect this game to look very similar to the Tigers matchup with Cincinnati, a very high scoring game between two prolific offenses.

Memphis wins this game if…?

AR: The Tigers win if they take care of the ball and force a couple of Houston turnovers. Also, the offense has to be fully locked in. It's probably going to take at least 40 points to win this game, and that's not going to be easy against the Houston defense. Winning the turnover battle would give Memphis some extra possessions to try to hit that magic number.

JM: If Memphis plays their game, controlling the pace and taking advantage of just about every possession they get, Memphis should win.

Score prediction?

AR: Memphis wins 41-35. Honestly, signs point to Houston winning this game. They're at home, Memphis' defense probably can't stop them, and Ward is a freak athlete. But all that being said, I just have a really hard time envisioning the Tigers dropping two games in a row after going 393 days between losses. Memphis will find a way to get the job done.

JM: 56-48 Memphis.

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