Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

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• The Tigers lead the American Athletic Conference in rushing (195.8 yards per game) despite not having a player ranked higher than ninth individually (Sam Craft, with 50.2 per game). This is partly explained by the injury that ended Doroland Dorceus’s season after just four games (and 237 rushing yards). Senior Brandon Hayes missed a game and has seen carries taken by Craft, but the White Station alum has still averaged 46.2 yards per game. Add freshman Jarvis Cooper (171 yards) and Paxton Lynch (133 yards despite being penalized by sacks on his rushing totals), and the Tigers have what amounts to a four-man band of ball carriers behind a line that continues to create gaps. If you’re looking for a magic number behind Tiger victories this season, start with 200 rushing yards. Memphis is 3-0 when gaining 200 on the ground, and 0-3 when they fall short of the figure.

• With the second half of the season upon us, let the campaign officially begin for Tank Jakes as the American’s Defensive Player of the Year. Having already been named Defensive Player of the Week twice, Jakes leads the AAC in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (12, four more than anyone else in the league). And here’s a telling figure: Among Jakes’s 50 total tackles, only 13 have been assisted by teammates. (Cincinnati’s Jeff Luc leads the American with 75 tackles, but 40 of them are the assisted variety.) Among the eight players in the AAC with more total tackles than Jakes, none have fewer than 20 assisted hits. Jakes has been, quite literally, a one-man wrecking machine all over the field for Memphis. Particularly with Martin Ifedi’s extended absence, it’s hard to imagine a defensive player providing more value than Jakes has midway through the 2014 season.

June Jones knew what he was doing when he resigned two games into his seventh season as coach of the SMU Mustangs. This is the worst team in college football, and by some distance. The Mustangs rank dead last among 128 FBS teams in both scoring (6.5 points per game) and points allowed (48.0). The closest game they’ve played is a 45-24 loss to East Carolina on October 4th. The Cincinnati team that Memphis handled earlier this month (41-14) beat SMU last Saturday, 41-3. This Saturday will be the first FBS “gimme” the Tigers have played in quite some time, a game to shake off any rust after a bye week . . . and make sure players return to Memphis healthy for what will be a short week of prep before Tulsa arrives on Halloween night. There’s a compassionate part of me that feels for the program that gave us Don Meredith and Eric Dickerson, a program that only three years ago destroyed the Tigers (42-0) at the Liberty Bowl. On the other hand, this is a team that destroyed the Tigers three years ago at the Liberty Bowl. Time to balance the scales a little.

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