For the second straight season, Auburn will be facing a team with an interim coach. It isn't an old legend coming back at the team's behest this time, though. Former Memphis Tiger head coach Justin Fuente built a strong team out of one of the doormats of college football before his departure to take the Virginia Tech job. Now Darrell Dickey is leading them through the final game of the season to face Auburn.
Auburn will have a partial interim staff of its own as for the second season in a row they do not have a full-time defensive coordinator on the sidelines. Linebackers coach Lance Thompson will be leading the defense and former Auburn linebacker (and current defensive grad assistant) Travis Williams is stepping back on the field for the second season in a row as the linebackers coach. Meanwhile grad assistant Blake Gideon is coaching the secondary with the departure of Travaris Robinson.
When Memphis has the ball, Auburn will be facing one of the better QBs in the nation. Paxton Lynch is a prolific passer and he is no slouch at running the ball, either. He's not exactly a "mobile" quarterback, but he's capable of picking up yards if Auburn leaves him lanes. Memphis also employs a running game that utilizes all of their skill position players. It will be a very good offense, ranking 12th in the nation in total offense for the 2015 season. That is the second best statistical offense that Auburn will have faced. The best team Auburn has played is Ole Miss. That should give Auburn fans at least some confidence, though, as the Tigers limited the Rebels for the most part.
When Auburn has the ball... who knows? Right now we don't know who the QB will be for Auburn. If Sean White is healthy, then I expect he gets the start. He gives Auburn the better chance to develop a passing game, and defending the pass is something Memphis does not do very well. They have a much better run defense than they do a passing defense. If Sean White is able to get any sort of game going through the air, then Auburn will have a very good chance to put a lot of points on the board.
If Jeremy Johnson plays, then Auburn will likely stick to the script that led the Tigers to a decent first half against Alabama and a victory over Texas A&M. Quick screen passes, runs up the middle, runs away from motion, buck sweeps, etc. They should really utilize those with White, as well, but White adds in an accurate downfield passing game, as well.
This will definitely not be a push-over. Memphis defeated Ole Miss handily in Memphis earlier this season, and they're going to be riding high off that game and excited to defeat their second SEC opponent of the season. They'll have a lot of motivation going into this game.
I've seen some pundits on Twitter question whether Auburn will have any motivation at all for this one. I think Auburn will come out very motivated. There is still a lot on the line. The Tigers' seniors haven't won a bowl game in their career. They don't want to end the season with a losing record. Gus Malzahn doesn't want to have his first losing season as a coach at any position/level since 1992 (more on that later for all you Gus naysayers out there). Auburn has not lost to a team that was in a BCS/P5 conference at the time of the game since Brett Favre lead Southern Miss to a victory over the Tigers.
A lot will be on the line for Auburn in a stadium they have a lot of history with. Hopefully this really is the final time the Tigers ever have to play in The Old Grey Lady, though.
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