Published January 13, 2015
Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of American Athletic Conference squads coming off of a bye week will be matched up in a Wednesday night game, as the Cincinnati Bearcats visit the Memphis Tigers at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
This will be the first time Cincinnati will be in action since its 41-16 rout of Connecticut. The victory was the second straight for the Bearcats and fourth in the last five games. Overall, Tommy Tuberville's squad is sporting a 5-2 record and is in the thick of the AAC race with a mark of 2-1 in conference play. In its five victories Cincinnati hasn't faced much resistance as the average margin of victory in those contests is 29.8 points per game.
Other than a 31-7 triumph over Arkansas State at the end of September, Memphis has not been able to put anything in the win column. That includes a current three-game losing streak the Tigers took into their bye week last weekend. In all, Memphis is just 1-5 on the year, including an 0-3 mark in-conference. Most recently the Tigers dropped a 32-29 decision to SMU in the first of a three-game homestand that continues Wednesday.
This the first meeting between these teams since 2004, when they were both members of Conference USA. That contest ended in a 49-10 win for Cincinnati. Memphis still holds an 18-12 advantage in the all-time series.
Brendon Kay has really performed well during the short win streak for the Bearcats. In the two victories Kay has completed 48-of-61 passes, for 560 yards and six touchdowns, without an interception. Kay also had his first 300- yard effort of the campaign in the win over Connecticut and has now thrown for 1,386 yard and 13 touchdowns this season. He has limited turnovers as well, with just four interceptions, and his 71.8 completion percentage is second to only Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater among AAC signal callers.
Kay's efficient production has helped steer a largely effective Bearcats' offense that is scoring 34 points and picking up 467 yards of total offense on average.
One of Kay's strengths has been getting the ball to multiple receivers. Shaq Washington (39 receptions, 334 yards) is clearly the safety net as he leads the team in receptions by more than 10. However, Anthony McClung (28 receptions, 364 yards, four TDs), Chris Moore (20 receptions, 280 yards, four TDs) and Max Morrison (19 receptions, 280 yards, three TDs) have been the more explosive targets. Keeping an eye on Mekale McKay (seven receptions, 187 yards, three TDs) is also a must.
In the backfield there has not been one dominant force. Hosey Williams (362 yards, four TDs), Ralph David Abernathy (341 yards, two TDs) and Tion Green (254 yards, four TDs) have all seen plenty of action.
It has not just been on the offensive side that Cincinnati has had success. The Bearcats have been a formidable defensive squad, allowing less than 20 points per game (17.6), while ranking behind only Louisville in total defense (286.9 ypg). The front seven has been the key with Greg Blair (46 tackles), Nick Temple (40 tackles, 4.0 sacks), Silverberry Mouhon (5.5 sacks) and Jordan Stepp (4.0 sacks) performing well.
An inability to pick up yards through the air has plagued Memphis on offense this year. The Tigers are fourth in the league in rushing (160.8 ypg) but second to last in passing (198.8 ypg). Scoring hasn't been a strength either with the team putting up just over 20 points per game.
Lacking much in terms of a passing game has meant the Tigers have relied heavily on feature back Brandon Hayes, who has rushed for 444 yards and three touchdowns on 88 carries. In the loss to SMU, Hayes produced 65 yards and a score on 16 carries. Marquis Warford (297 yards, TD) will also see some time in the backfield.
Paxton Lynch is the man under center for the Tigers. He has completed a healthy 60.9 percent of his passes this year, but for only 1,193 yards and three touchdowns, with five interceptions. All the blame can't be put on Lynch however, as the offensive line has struggled. Lynch has been sacked 16 times in six games, including 11 times in league play.
When he has time and can complete passes, Lynch generally spreads the wealth among Mose Frazier (14 receptions, 244 yards, TD), Joe Craig (21 receptions, 244 yards) and Tevin Jones (17 receptions, 228 yards).
Despite just one win, the Memphis defense hasn't been the real problem. Memphis has limited its opponents to just 22.5 points and 331 yards of total offense per game, allowing the Tigers to hang around in most games. Despite facing double teams a lot, Martin Ifedi has made a fair share of plays up field, with 7.5 sacks and an AAC-leading 11.5 tackles for loss.