Auburn Tigers (6-6 SU, 2-9-1 ATS) vs. Memphis Tigers (9-3 SU, 5-5-1 ATS)
Birmingham Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Wednesday December 30th, 12:00PM EST
Where: Legion Field Birmingham, A.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AUB +3/MEM -3
Over/Under Total: 61.5
The 2015 Birmingham Bowl at historic Legion Field will take place on Wednesday December 30th when the Auburn Tigers meet the Memphis Tigers. Before the year began, Auburn had National Championship type aspirations but things did not pan out especially on the offensive side of the football. Instead the 6-6 Tigers will now need a victory to avoid their first losing season since 2012. Meanwhile, Memphis had another stellar season under 3rd year Head Coach Justin Fuente. Memphis won their first 8 games of the season before hitting a few stumbling blocks down the stretch. However, they could still wrap up their 2nd straight 10 win season with a win over Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.
To avoid too much confusion, I will try to limit the moniker Tigers as much as possible in this article. The difference in this matchup of Tigers is just 3 points despite the fact Memphis ended the year at 9-3 SU compared to Auburns 6-6 SU mark. However if you look at both teams body of work, then I think you have to give Memphis the advantage based on what they have done this season. Auburns biggest wins come against Texas A&M who completely collapsed at the end of the season and their next biggest win may have been Kentucky? Meanwhile, Memphis had several solid victories including a marquee beating over rival and 13th ranked Ole Miss. Therefore it will be interesting to see if those quality opponent snapshots will be any indicator of what we should expect on December 30th.
Auburn really struggled on the offensive side of the ball this season. Coach Gus Malzahn is known as one of the best offensive masterminds in the game. However, the majority of Auburns 2015 campaign was decimated with injuries and troubles at the quarterback position. Malzahn had two quarterbacks share time behind center this season but there was not much to be excited about from either freshman Sean White nor Jeremy Johnson. Both quarterbacks combined for just 10 total passing touchdowns on the season with 9 interceptions.
Typically Auburns offense has produced dynamic dual threat quarterbacks over the last several years that have been able to kill defenses with their running ability. I believe a big reason Auburn had a disappointing season is that they did not have a quarterback with the ability to run Malzahns offense the way he envisioned. Neither White nor Johnson rushed for more than 200 yards on the season. Last year Nick Marshall terrorized defenses in the running game and was able to hit the big plays in the passing game as well. Malzahns offenses are designed for dual threat quarterbacks but this offense simply does not have a guy that has proven they can execute.
Instead, this years team has had to find ways to be scrappy to compete. The defense has been improved under defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and running back Peyton Barber has been a workhorse in a more traditional style rushing offense. It is worth noting that Muschamp is now gone from the team as the new Head Coach at South Carolina but it has been evident that the defense improved significantly nevertheless. Auburns defense will be put to the test in Birmingham when they go against a very talented Memphis offense.
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has been sensational this season completing 69% passing for 3,670 yards with 28 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Lynch has a very talented receiving corps that are led by the likes of Mose Frazier, Anthony Miller, and Phil Mayhue. Lynch does a good job of spreading the football around to these receivers and defending this offense can be frustrating. Lynch can spread the ball around accurately on short to middle range throws and then hit shots down field when defenses get out of position. Auburns defense is going to need a bend but dont break type approach and stay disciplined throughout all 4 quarters. Auburns ability to stop the big plays will be critical towards their chances of winning this football game.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I simply think this is a bad line. Memphis did not close out the year well but they are still a much better team than Auburn. Take Memphis -3 as they cruise in this one!
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