American Athletic Conference opponent preview: Memphis

In the eighth part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Next up: the University of Memphis Tigers.

The University of Memphis, 875 miles and almost a 15 hour drive from Temple’s main campus, plays its home games at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The facility is nearly half-a-century old, and was built as a tribute to veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The stadium contains seating for 61,000 spectators.

Memphis played its inaugural season in 1912, and has a lifetime record of 441-488-32 for a .476 winning percentage. Before moving to The American, the Tigers had been members of Conference USA since 1995.

Temple has never faced Memphis in the football program’s history, as this year mark’s the first matchup between the two universities.

The Tigers have a 15-46 record over the past five seasons. The team’s current head coach is Justin Fuente, who was hired after the conclusion of the 2011 season. Fuente was previously a co-offensive coordinator at Texas Christian University.

Memphis is coming off a 4-8 season, which compared to the two previous years, was a mild improvement. The Tigers had just five combined wins from 2009-2011. In this year’s media poll, Memphis was picked to finish tenth, dead last in The American (the only school ranked behind the Owls).

On the offensive side, the Tigers are looking at a quarterback competition. Last year, senior Jacob Karam had a solid season, completing 64.2 percent of his passes and throwing just three interceptions. Karam’s competition comes from redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch. Fuente helped recruit Lynch, so there could be some logic in giving him the nod in an effort to build for the future. But based off of last year’s statistics, the job is Karam’s to lose.

In 2012, the Tigers had one of the best defenses in their conference. But in the American, where competition will be much more fierce, Memphis will still need to do better if it wants to have any legitimate shot at a postseason berth. The team returns several key starters including seniors Anthony Brown and Johnnie Farms, in addition to juniors Charles Harris and Terry Redden. Harris led the team with 79 tackles last season.

Memphis has a few notable alumni that have gone on to have careers in the NFL. Running back DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers and kicker Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots played for the Tigers during their collegiate careers. Four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Isaac Bruce, best known for his years with the St. Louis Rams, also played for Memphis.

Temple will wrap up the regular season this year against the Tigers on the road in Memphis, Tenn. on Nov. 30 at a time that has not yet been determined.

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