Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#119 Memphis -15.5 vs.
#120 USF 60
Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 4:00pm EST
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#119 University of Memphis
#120 University of South Florida
9-1
4-6
7-3
6-4
8-2
5-5
41
23
25
26

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The No.18-ranked Memphis Tigers will travel to Raymond James Stadium on Saturday afternoon as they prepare for an American Athletic Conference showdown against the South Florida Bulls.

South Florida showed some life last week, nearly upsetting the No. 17-ranked Bearcats in a tough three-point loss. At 4-6 (2-4 AAC), the Bulls need to win out to qualify for a bowl game. Meanwhile, Memphis enters the week in a three-way tie atop the AAC West division with a 5-1 record in conference play but they control their own destiny down the stretch of the regular season. If the Tigers win out, they will host the AAC Championship Game, where they will most likely face the Cincinnati Bearcats. To do so, they will first have to beat Cincinnati at home in their season finale on Nov. 29. Can Memphis continue its late-season push by covering the spread on the road against South Florida on Saturday?

The Tigers dominated Houston 45-27 on the road last week for their fourth straight win thanks to another big day from quarterback Brady White. Trailing 17-7 after the first quarter, Memphis stormed back behind White, who threw for 341 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception on the day. Kenneth Gainwell had 99 rushing yards while Damonte Coxwell caught four balls for 93 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers, who outgained Houston 531 to 256 in total offense in the win. The Tigers’ defense also stepped up, allowing only 113 yards of total offense over the final three quarters to help Memphis keep pace in the AAC standings.

South Florida nearly pulled off an unlikely upset last week but ultimately fell 20-17 on a last-second field goal against No. 17 Cincinnati. The Bulls blanked Cincinnati in the first half and led 17-7 midway through the third quarter but were unable to put away the Bearcats, who scored 13 unanswered points to squeak out the win as time expired. Freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud completed 18-of-27 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown while Jordan Cronkite ran for 78 yards for the Bulls, who outgained Cincinnati 438 to 278 in total yardage in the loss. To make matters worse, USF’s kicker, Spencer Shrader, missed a 33-yard field goal that would have given the Bulls the lead with 2:07 remaining. The freshman missed four kicks in total, capping off a forgettable night.

Memphis controls its own destiny down the stretch

The race for the Cotton Bowl has gotten a lot more interesting in recent weeks. After South Florida’s near upset of Cincinnati last week, Memphis appears to be in the driver seat after Cincinnati dropped to No. 19 in the latest AP Polls. The Tigers will take on the Bearcats in the regular-season finale and perhaps again in the AAC Championship Game for a chance to play in the Cotton Bowl. According to ESPN, if the season ended today, the Tigers would take on No. 7-ranked Utah in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 28.

White continues to solidify himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He is only one of five Memphis quarterbacks in program history to throw for than 5,000 career yards and he currently ranks fourth on the school’s all-time list with 5,807 yards. White is also a Top-5 finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, ranking in the top-10 nationally in yards per attempt, yards per completion, passing efficiency, and touchdowns. He comes in with 2,852 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only five interceptions so far this season.

On defense, Memphis has surrendered 25.9 points per game, including 33.25 points per game during their current four-game winning streak. The Tigers’ defense has allowed 380.9 total yards and 170.6 yards per game on the ground so far this year. Memphis also ranks No. 1 in the country in special teams efficiency (85.1), which measures a unit’s per-play contribution to a team’s scoring margin, adjusted for the opposition. Punter Adam Williams has been a major part of their success in that area. Williams currently holds the school record for the highest career punt average at 44.2 yards per punt.

Bulls nearly pull off upset vs. Cincinnati

The Bulls’ offense is led by true freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud, who has performed admirably after being thrust into the starting role. McCloud has flashed improvement in each of the last three weeks and has set career-highs in passing yardage in each of his past two games. Since leading the Bulls to a win over East Carolina, McCloud has thrown for 594 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions while completing 64.9 percent of his passes during that span. The freshman has 16 total touchdowns (four rushing) and only six interceptions so far this season.

South Florida has played two of its best defensive games of the season in recent weeks only to come up empty time and time again on offense. The Bulls allowed just 20 points against Cincinnati last week and only 17 points the week prior against Temple, which included a fumble recovery for a touchdown by the Owls’ defense. South Florida will have another challenging task on their hands this week against Brady White and the high-powered Tigers’ offense. The Bulls come into the week allowing 26.4 points and 367.8 yards of total offense per game, including 194.6 yards per game on the ground (102nd in FBS).

Getting off the field on third-downs will be a key for South Florida in this game. USF’s defense ranks 105th in the nation in third-down defense, allowing its opponents to convert 44.2 percent of the time, while Memphis’ offense converts on third-down 46.6 percent of the time, which ranks first in the AAC.

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This could be considered a trap game for the Tigers, who have a season-defining matchup against No.19-ranked Cincinnati next week. But, the Tigers simply have too much offensive firepower to get upset in this one. The combination of White and Gainwell has been tough to stop for opponents this season and the Tigers’ lone loss came on a controversial call against Temple. Memphis is playing for a trip to the AAC Championship and a chance to play in the Cotton Bowl, so I expect them to come out focused in this game. Take the Tigers to cover the number on the road in this late-season AAC matchup on Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: Memphis Tigers -14

Full-Game Total Pick

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These two teams are pegged for 59.5 points but that seems a bit low here. Memphis has scored 40-plus in four straight games and they are averaging 41.5 points per game so far this year. The Tigers have also given up 33.25 points per game during their current four-game winning streak, so South Florida should be able to have a better offensive showing in this game. The Bulls have scored just 24 combined points over the last two weeks and are averaging only 18 points per game over their last four contests. They seem due for some points and this looks like a good spot for that to happen. That this game to go over the projected total on Saturday. 

Prediction: Over 59.5
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.