One month into the college football season it is beginning to look more and more as though the Group of Five representative in the New Years Six could be coming out of the American Athletic Conference. Houston, Navy and Temple are all off to solid starts while the Mountain West Conference has stumbled, but the Memphis Tigers may be putting together the best possible candidate as we enter October.
Memphis may not have a victory over a power conference opponent the way Houston and Temple and Boise State do (does Kansas really count?), but the Tigers have just won two games against legitimate preseason Group of Five contenders Bowling Green and Cincinnati. Justin Fuente may also have the best offense going among the Group of Five, and the Tigers look to keep things rolling this week with a Friday night contest at USF.
Memphis at South Florida
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV Channel: ESPN 2
Spread: Memphis -8.5
Three Things to Watch
1. How can USF keep pace with Memphis?
On paper there is no comparison to be made between the offenses of Memphis and USF. The Tigers are on the prowl with an average of 53.8 points and 570.2 yards per game. The Bulls have scored about half as many points per game (27.3 ppg) and roughly 200 fewer yards per game on offense (376.7 ypg). Memphis carries the longest active streak among FBS programs with at least 40 points per game (six straight going back to 2014). USF has scored at least 40 points in a game just once since the beginning of the 2012 season, and that was this season in a season-opening 51-3 win against Florida A&M.
2. USF must keep protecting the football on the ground
If the Bulls are going to pull the upset, the offense will have to attempt to manage the clock with some effective possessions. That falls on being able to run the football, which has been working well so far. USF has rushed for 221.3 ypg and the Bulls are the only team in the AAC entering October yet to lose a fumble even though they have the second-most fumbles this season among AAC teams. At some point the Bulls will not have a bounce go their way, and it cannot afford to have that streak end against Memphis.