With Auburn playing an unfamiliar opponent, we had to put together a Q&A with the SB Nation site that covers Memphis in the American Athletic Conference, Underdog Dynasty. You can read my answers to their questions over there.
1) I know a lot about how good Paxton Lynch is throwing the football. I know Auburn is going to have a lot of trouble with him. How is Memphis' running game? Will Auburn have to worry about a great ground game to take some troubles off Lynch? Is Lynch himself a threat to run?
The Memphis rushing attack is basically used as a way to keep the pressure off of Lynch and keep the defense rested. They have rushed 532 times on the year with 17 different players carrying the ball. The trio of Doroland Dorceus, Jarvis Cooper, and Sam Craft are the top three rushers, but none have a carry longer than 35 yards on the year.
Lynch is a threat to run when needed. He has a 5.1 yards per carry average after you take out sacks and kneeldowns, so he will earn about 25 yards per game on the ground. The player to watch in the Memphis running game is wide receiver Mose Frazier. The wideout has only carried the ball 14 times, but has the longest carry of the season for Memphis. He is capable of taking any carry to the house.
2) Memphis has already defeated one SEC team this season. How much would defeating two lift this program?
It all goes back to the Tommy West days. When West resigned as head coach, he asked the city, the school, and the fanbase to put something into the program. Things have started to finally change for Memphis during the Fuente era, but a second win over an SEC program in a single season is a game changer. Maybe, finally the fans would start showing up and fully supporting the team no matter who they are playing.
3) The Memphis defense hasn't been that spectacular this season. What is it they do best, though? And what are they REALLY bad at?
Memphis is best at slowing down running games. They are in the top 40 nationally in stopping explosive runs, stuff 22% of all rushing attempts, and top five nationally in stopping short yardage runs. Their biggest strengths versus the running game match up with some of the biggest strengths of the Auburn run game.
Memphis is terrible at limiting the explosive pass play. Their defensive passing IsoPPP is in the bottom 30 nationally, while also managing to rank #86 of worse in virtually every advanced statistic versus the pass. White should have the chance to throw all over the secondary whenever he wants.
4) How much does the potential for rain affect Memphis' game plan? Auburn is a run-heavy team and I expect them to stay that way regardless. If the wind and rain are bad, how do you expect Memphis to respond?
The passing game will be affected by the rain, but Lynch throws such a pretty pass that Frazier, Anthony Miller, and Phil Mayhue should be fine. The running game will have to come up big in this game no matter the weather. There is a good chance that Memphis goes a bit conservative early in the game with lots of runs, but pass heavy once they get a good feel for how the fieldturf handles the rain.
5) Predictions for the game?
I expect Memphis to struggle early on offense, especially if it rains steadily. They should be able to pick it up on offense with the passing game once Lynch gets a handle on the conditions. If they can get an early lead over Auburn, I think Memphis can be more balanced and become very hard to stop. If Memphis wins, Lynch throws for 350 or more. If Memphis loses, Lynch is picked off more than twice.