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Memphis, UConn meet in Hartford Friday
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 10/2/2017  at  5:08:00 AM
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Rentschler Fielder – East Hartford, CT
Kickoff: Friday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: Memphis -13.5, Total: NA

Memphis seeks to re-enter the win column against an AAC lightweight.

As the Memphis Tigers sought to begin their delayed entrance into American Athletic Conference play last weekend, the team looked like a possible favorite to win the league. They were 3-0 with a thrilling 48-45 home victory over No. 25 UCLA (MEM +3.5), but nonetheless headed to Orlando as 5.5-point underdogs to AAC foe Central Florida. The Knights made that line look like a joke, running all over the Tigers for a 40-13 win. Memphis now heads to the legendary college football town of East Hartford, Connecticut, where they'll get a much easier opponent in the UConn Huskies. UConn is 0-4 against the spread and 1-3 overall, with their only win coming as 22-point favorites in a too-close 27-20 triumph over Holy Cross in their opener. Over the last 10 seasons, road favorites with a defense allowing at least 31.0 PPG (MEM) are 26-59 ATS after allowing 31 points in two straight games. On the other hand, in the last five seasons, home underdogs with winning percentages at .250 or under (UCONN) are 37-79 ATS against teams with winning records.

Calling the Tigers' defeat at the hands of Scott Frost's Knights "decisive" would be an understatement. Memphis was outgained 603-382 in yardage, possessed the ball for only 22 minutes and 37 seconds to UCF's 37:23, and committed four turnovers to the Knights' one. The Tigers allowed a devastating 350 yards rushing to UCF, something that will rarely lead to a win. And while Memphis actually outgained UCF through the air, QB Riley Ferguson (55.4 CMP%, 1,104 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs) had a miserable outing with three interceptions. The senior is talented, entertaining and experienced, but it was his second dud in only four games: He completed only 10 of 25 passes for less than 100 yards in a tight season-opening win against Louisiana Monroe. And though Ferguson completed 27 of 49 passes against UCF, his 321 yards reveal an underwhelming 6.6 yards per attempt. He completed passes to 13 different receivers, which perhaps sounds like a good thing, but instead reflects his having few go-to options at wideout. On the season, WR Anthony Miller (20 catches, 292 yards, 3 TDs) is easily his No. 1 option, but he managed only three catches for 37 yards against the Knights. After a 75-yard receiving game against the Knights to lead the team, RB Tony Pollard (7 catches, 131 yards, TD; 7 carries, 15 yards) is the team's third-leading receiver on the year. TE Joey Magnifico (11 catches, 152 yards, 2 TDs) and WR Phil Mayhue (10 catches, 123 yards, TD) are also options for Ferguson. RBs Darrell Henderson (44 carries, 393 yards, 3 TDs) and Patrick Taylor Jr. (52 carries, 276 yards, 3 TDs) combined to get 77 yards on 15 combined carries against UCF. When not trailing significantly, the Tigers should be able to establish a strong ground attack.

Connecticut failed to cover a 16.5-point spread when visiting the SMU Mustangs last weekend, but they did hang with the 'Stangs longer than many would have expected. While they trailed 21-10 at half, they were able to tie the game at 28 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. But as the final score suggests, it was all downhill from there. QB Bryant Shirreffs (68.9 CMP%, 1,165 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs) and the passing game have been the highlight for the Huskies so far this year, and such was again the case against SMU. Shirreffs completed 22 of 28 passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns on the day. The senior is second in the conference in completion percentage and passing yardage, but easily first with 11.0 yards per attempt. Unfortunately, his 11 sacks are also an AAC high mark through September. The vast majority of those came against SMU—a traditionally weak offensive line looked improved through three games, but the beleaguered group relapsed in allowing the Mustangs to take down Shirreffs eight times. It's a miracle he was still able to throw the ball. The Huskies' final rushing total of -8 yards on the day is due to those takedowns, but it's not like they were able to get much going otherwise: RBs Nate Hopkins (47 carries, 223 yards, 5 TDs), Kevin Mensah (30 carries, 167 yards, TD) and Arkeel Newsome (23 carries, 39 yards, TD) combined for 45 yards on 23 carries. Newsome (15 catches, 311 yards, TD), though, has been the team's leading receiver on the year. Against SMU, WR Aaron McLean (9 catches, 193 yards, TD) had five catches for 122 yards and a score, while freshman WR Keyion Dixon (13 catches, 159 yards, TD) had four grabs for 84 yards.

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