Predicting the Season Game 4: The Memphis Tigers vs. The UTEP Miners

Game 4:  The Memphis Tigers at the UTEP Miners (9/25/2010)

We all  know what happened last year.  Researching this post, I stumbled upon this description of the game from the Memphis Roar.

The ‘man of Steele’ gave the Tigers a whopping 240 yards on 39 carries. Steele accounted for 3 touchdowns in the game, two on the ground and one touchdown reception. At quarterback, Will Hudgens was poised and was able to take advantage of the Miners decision to play mostly man coverage in the game. Hudgens has struggled with consistency for most of his career, however, that was not the case against UTEP, as Will was poised and in control.

Yup.  That happened.  Even the Memphis sites were stunned that Will Hudgens looked like a college quarterback.  Don't you love that the 3-3-5 and it's constant array of man coverage was able to do that?  

Thankfully, two key facts from the above paragraph have changed.  First, Curtis "Man of" Steele is off to the Baltimore Ravens (here's a nice post from Baltimore Beatdown on him).  Second, UTEP no longer runs the dreaded, 3-3-5 defense that allowed Hudgens to dissect the Miners Peyton Manning style.  Luckily, one fact hasn't changed about the Tigers:  they still don't have a quarterback.

Entering fall camp, the Tigers have not yet named a starter.  The only quarterback on their roster with game experience is junior Tyler Bass.  Word is, though, that Bass will be more of a "Wildcat" QB in the fall.  In the spring, Miami Hurricane transfer Cannon Smith (yes, his name is Cannon Smith) took most of the first team snaps.  Also, watch out for true freshman Ryan Williams who graduated high school early to practice in the spring with the Tigers.  Williams may be the long term answer, so we'll see if new head coach Larry Porter is willing to give the frosh a shot.  

Porter has never been a college head coach or even a coordinator before.  He was assistant head coach at LSU under Les Miles and he may have been the best recruiter on that staff. A former running back at Memphis, Porter knows the school and brings solid recruiting roots.  The problem for Memphis?  That doesn't help them in 2010.  

Last year, Steele was Memphis' best player.  He'll be replaced by two players- Lance Smith and T.J. Pitts.  Pitts transferred from Wisconsin and could be a good one.  The Tigers other 2009 star, Duke Calhoun, graduated.  

Defensively, in 2009, the Tigers were ranked 110th out of 120 FBS schools in scoring defense (34.8 ppg).  In the secondary, the Tigers gave up about 285 yards a game.  he Tigers are led by linebackers Jamon Hughes and Winston Bowens, but with a new head coach, I don't see the defense being much better than they were a year ago.  

Last year, UTEP beat #12 Houston a week before losing to 2-10 Memphis.  This year, Memphis should come to the Sun Bowl no better than 1-2 (their first three games are against Mississippi State, East Carolina, and Middle Tennessee State) while the Miners, hopefully, will be no worse than 2-1 (Arkansas Pine Bluff, Houston, New Mexico State).  Hopefully, the embarrassment of last years loss to Tommy West's former club, and the home crowd, will help the Miners avoid a similar result.

So, who ya got?

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