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Bowl Preview: Memphis vs. Auburn (Birmingham Bowl) 

The Birmingham Bowl features what figures to be an interesting matchup between Memphis out of the AAC and an unpredictable Auburn outfit out of the SEC. Memphis (9-3) started the year with eight straight wins including a 37-24 upset of Ole Miss in Oxford before dropping three straight conference games to Navy, Houston and Temple. Auburn was considered a “sexy” pick to upset in the SEC West before being forced top overtime by I-AA Jacksonville State and then getting blown out by LSU. The Tigers finished 2-6 in conference with its best win a 26-10 decision over Texas A&M. Auburn opened a -2.5 point favorite and was bet to three. The total opened at 61.5 and now sits at 63. There is a 70% chance of rain at game time so do your due diligence. Kickoff is at 12:00 Noon EST and will be carried on ESPN.

The Memphis Tigers feature QB Paxton Lynch who might very well be the first QB taken in this year’s NFL drafty. At 6’7″ and 245, Lynch has the new prototypical size to go along with a rocket arm. He’s completed 70% of his passes with a 28/3 TD/Int ratio and while not a real threat with his legs, shows good movement and athleticism and even managed 245 lightly used on the ground. Running back was by committee with Doroland Dorceus (613, 8 TDs) the top producer. Memphis has three wide outs with at least 44 catches and 644+ yards. Lynch has thrown touchdowns to 13 different receivers so the Tigers to spread it around. The Memphis defense was ranked 75th overall but 29th against the run which they’ll need to defend in this game.

As previously mentioned, Auburn was supposed to challenge Alabama in the SEC West. That never materialized thanks in large part to inconsistent QB play and a shaky defense. Jeremy Johnson (9 TDs, 7 INTS) started the year with great fanfare but he was benched for redshirt Fr. Sean White (1/2) who went down after five games with a knee injury. Juco Javon Robinson (513, 5.7 ypc.) and Peyton Barber (975, 13 TDs) helped took the load off Johnson in the final four games. Ricard Louis (45, 699) is the only legitimate wide out. No other player has more than 229 yards receiving. The defense under DC Will Muschamps allowed 27.3 ppg. and was rewarded with the South Carolina job. All in all, not a very good year for Gus Malzahn’s crew.

Memphis HC Justin Fuentes will take over for Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech but the Tigers should not miss a beat under interim HC Darrel Dickey who headed the North Texas Sunbelt powerhouses in the early 2000’s. Memphis only returned three starters on defense this year but was ranked 37th against the run which they’ll have to deal with here. Memphis was involved in a 55-48 2X OT win over BYU in Miami last year so they have some Bowl experience. Auburn is 4-19 ATS in its L23 games overall and 0-7 as the chalk this year. They do take a huge drop in class as they will not be facing the likes of what they saw in the SEC here. Whether or not that will translate into a win remains to be seen.

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