The Memphis Tigers will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons without their star running back and leading rusher Darrell Henderson. The junior is instead putting his effort and focus into the NFL Draft.
Memphis clinched bowl eligibility in early November with a win against Tulsa, putting it at 6-4. The team finished the season with another two wins and a loss.
Wake Forest clinched bowl eligibility at the last second, securing its sixth win in its last game of the regular season against Duke. At one point in the season, the Demon Deacons had slim chances of making a bowl game, entering their game against Louisville in late October with a record of 3-4.
Here’s a look at important information about watching the Birmingham Bowl, odds for the game, a preview and a prediction.
Two very different teams will meet at Legion Field in the Birmingham Bowl tomorrow at noon. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s Wake Forest is matched up against the No. 1 in the West American Athletic Conference—the Memphis Tigers.
The Tigers proved to be quite the powerhouse offense not only in their conference this season, but also in all of college football. According to NCAA.com, Memphis had the fourth-best total offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with an average of 534.3 average total yards per game.
This dominant offense was led by the running back with the second-most rushing yards in the nation—Henderson. Henderson ran for 1,909 yards, only 80 yards behind top rusher, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Henderson had two three-touchdown, 200-plus-yard games on the season, both coming in losses. Profiling Memphis RB Darrell Henderson’s background, strengths and weaknesses on the field in advance of the 2019 NFL Draft
Henderson is joined by Patrick Taylor Jr., another back who broke 1,000 rushing yards on the season with 1,012 yards. Taylor contributed 15 touchdowns to Henderson’s 22, and the duo contributed to Memphis’ unstoppable run game.
The Tigers ran for a total of 3,712 yards on the season, with 46 touchdowns. Comparably, opponents ran for just over 2,200 and 29 touchdowns.
The backs are joined by wideout Damonte Coxie, who leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns with 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. Coxie is one of quarterback Brady White’s favorite targets and has totaled 66 receptions. White has thrown for 3,125 yards and 25 touchdowns on eight interceptions.
The Demon Deacons will be led by sophomore Jamie Newman come bowl day, as their starting quarterback—freshman Sam Hartman—sustained a season-ending leg injury in Wake Forest’s 41-24 loss to Syracuse.
Newman has proved his talent at quarterback, racking up 680 passing yards and eight touchdowns in his three starts on the season against NC State, Pittsburgh and Duke.
The North Carolina native even ran for 94 yards in two of the games. Newman showcased his ability to move the ball up and down the field in a 59-7 blowout of Duke that clinched bowl eligibility for the Demon Deacons.
Alongside Newman is fellow sophomore and wide receiver Greg Dortch, who leads the team in receptions. Dortch has 1,078 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 89 receptions—similar numbers to Coxie.
Upperclassmen Matt Colburn and Cade Carney control the team’s rushing game as the two top backs. Carney boasts 954 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while Colburn follows with 698 yards and five touchdowns.
While Newman may not have had as much playing time this year as White, and Colburn and Carney are no match for Henderson and Taylor, Wake Forest may be able to exploit Memphis’ weaker defense. The Tigers have had trouble stopping opponents from scoring this season, giving up 65 points to Missouri in October and 56 to UCF in December.
The only common opponent the teams had this season was Tulane, who Wake Forest defeated and Memphis lost to. In the season opener, the Demon Deacons beat Tulane 23-17 in overtime. The Tigers were not as lucky, falling 40-24 to Tulane in late September.
Wake Forest is aiming for its third straight bowl win while Memphis will try to get its first since 2014. What’s in store for the #BirminghamBowl? https://athlonsports.com/college-football/birmingham-bowl-prediction-picks-memphis-tigers-vs-wake-forest-demon-deacons-2018 …
Birmingham Bowl Prediction and Preview: Memphis vs. Wake Forest
Memphis and Wake Forest will look to finish the season on a high note in the Birmingham Bowl. The Tigers (8-5, 5-3 AAC) are coming off of a loss in……
Memphis would have made easy work of Wake Forest if they had Henderson for this game. The back is a force to be reckoned with on the football field, and he would have had no trouble against the Wake Forest defense.
However, taking Henderson out of the equation changes the game a bit. The Tigers will have to rely more on Taylor in their rushing game, which the back won’t be used to. White will also have to take advantage of Coxie and his other receivers in order to put the ball in the end zone.
Additionally, while Wake Forest finished fifth in the ACC with a 6-6 record compared to Memphis’ 8-5 record, the Demon Deacons suffered losses to a few highly-ranked opponents. Half of Wake Forest’s losses came to Notre Dame, Clemson and Syracuse. Another came to Pittsburgh, who was on a roll towards the end of the season.
Only two of Memphis’ five losses came to a ranked opponent—UCF once in the regular season and once in the AAC Championship. The other three were to Navy, Missouri and Tulane.
That being said, even without Henderson and the slight difference in schedule difficulty, Memphis should still be able to defeat the inconsistent Wake Forest.
While Colburn and Carney are experienced, Taylor is explosive. Junior White has had more playing time this season to get comfortable in the pocket, with his receivers and under pressure. And the wideouts for both teams are fairly evenly matched.