• I'm not big on statistics at this stage of a season. With the likes of Mercer and Georgia State, certain numbers are bound to be inflated as conference play nears. But there are two early-season numbers I like a lot. The Tigers are third in the AAC with seven sacks and tied for third in fewest sacks allowed, with only two.
Controlling the line of scrimmage has been integral to winning football games since Rutgers and Princeton first suited up (four years after the end of the American Civil War). And the Tigers' offensive and defensive lines can get this team back into the Top 25. We expected the veteran O-line to excel and it has, Memphis averaging a cool 603 yards through three games. Those responsible, from left to right: Trevon Tate, Dylan Parham (the kid in the group, a redshirt freshman), Drew Kyser, Dustin Woodard, and Roger Joseph.
Pressure on opposing quarterbacks, though, was in question, what with the loss to the NFL of linebacker Genard Avery (8.5 sacks a year ago). Not to worry, at least not though three games. Five different Tigers have reached the quarterback, led by linebacker Bryce Huff with three take-downs. Jackson Dillon, Tim Hart, and Curtis Akins haven't joined the sack party yet, so expect the Tiger pass rush to sharpen its claws even more.
This man wants the football.
• In baseball terms, teams are intentionally walking Tony Pollard, and it stinks.
The junior from Melrose remains one shy of the national record for career kickoff-return touchdowns, with six. He hasn't been helped by the Tiger defense, which hasn't allowed many touchdowns or field goals. (We must be careful what we wish for in tracking this record chase.) But when teams do kick off, it's nowhere near the man in uniform number 1. Tiger coach Mike Norvell sees the "problem," but has chosen to embrace it. At his Monday press conference, Norvell said, "We didn't have any big returns because of what [Pollard has] done. They squibbed every kick, so our average starting field position was the 35-yard line, which is extraordinary." Stronger teams will challenge Pollard, you'd think. Kickoff-coverage teams play with pride, too. Here's hoping we soon see Pollard in full flight.
• It was great seeing Anthony Miller grab his first NFL touchdown pass on Monday Night Football.
All the better that it happened in a Bears victory (over Seattle) in Chicago, a city that should grow to love Miller as much as Memphis has for years now. Remember, this time a year ago, Miller was still an emerging name in football circles beyond the Mid-South. With DeAngelo Williams enjoying retirement (at times in a wrestling ring) and Paxton Lynch recently cut by the Denver Broncos, Miller is the current NFL flag-bearer among Memphis skill-position alumni. It'll be fun to watch him grow and develop synergy with a young quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky), even better if the Bears emerge as playoff contenders in the NFC North.