#26 Memphis Football 2020 Preview

Memphis Tigers
Overall Rank: #26
#2 American
 Memphis Logo
The defending American Athletic Conference champion Memphis Tigers will be looking to capitalize off of a 12-win season that resulted in a trip to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Head Coach Ryan Silverfield led Memphis in the Cotton Bowl and the Tigers were very competitive against Penn State in a 53-39 loss to the Nittany Lions. Silverfield takes over for Mike Norvell who left after the AAC Conference championship game to take the head coaching job at Florida State.
2019 Record: 12-2, 7-1
2019 Bowl: Cotton Bowl vs. Penn State (39-53 L)
Coach: Ryan Silverfield (0-1 at Memphis, 0-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Johns
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Macintyre
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, 1,459 yards
Passing:  Brady White, QB, 4,014 yards
Receiving: Damonte Coxie, WR, 1,276 yards
Tackles: Two players tied with 69
Sacks: Joseph Dorceus, DL, 5.0
Interceptions: Two players tied with 2
Other Key Returnees: LB Xavier Cullens, DB Sanchez Blake, DB La’Andre Thomas, LB JJ Russell, LB Tim Hart, K Riley Patterson, OL Obinna Eze, OL Dylan Parham, WR Calvin Austin Jr.
Key Losses: LB Austin Hall, WR Antonio Gibson, C Dustin Woodard, DB Chris Claybrooks, DE Bryce Huff, WR Kedarian Jones, OL Scottie Dill, OL Manuel Orona-Lopez
The offense should still end up being very balanced and explosive, led by quarterback Brady White who threw for 4,014 yards, 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes last season. Kenneth Gainwell is expected to be one of the top all-around running backs in college football, let alone the AAC. Gainwell rushed for 1,459 yards, 13 touchdowns, and averaged 6.3 yards per carry on the ground. In addition, Gainwell caught 51 passes for 610 yards and three touchdowns. Asa Martin should round out a nice 1-2 punch at running back for the Tigers after bouncing around between Auburn and Miami. Damonte Coxie leads the wide receiver group heading into 2020 as Coxie will be looking to capitalize off of a 2019 season where he caught 76 passes for 1,276 yards and nine touchdowns.
The defense had some quality moments at times last season as they limited Ole Miss to 10 points in the season opener and did a nice job of keeping Cincinnati in check by holding the Bearcats to 24 points in both meetings. Joseph Dorceus will be the primary pass rusher heading into 2020 as Dorceus had five sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries in 2019. Xavier Cullens has a pretty good nose for the football as he collected 69 tackles last season along with Sanchez Blake who also had 69 tackles and two interceptions. Quindell Johnson and La’Andre Thomas will be back as part of secondary that held well for the most part against the pass. Opposing teams were limited to just 195.9 yards per game through the air, which was good enough for 20th overall in the nation last season. Mike Macintyre comes over from Ole Miss and he has a good reputation when it comes to improving defenses so expect to see a nice step forward especially against the run in 2020 for the Tigers.
The Bottom Line:
On September 12th, Memphis will hit the road for a game against Purdue from out of the Big Ten. If the Tigers are going to get back to a New Year’s Six bowl game, they have to take care of business against the Boilermakers. The month of October will have a pair of critical matchups within conference play as UCF will visit the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on October 16th after not playing each other in 2019.  Then, about two plus weeks later, it will be time for Memphis to battle it out with Cincinnati up at Nippert Stadium. This game more than likely will decide things, like who has homefield advantage in the conference championship game and so forth. Navy will be another potential landmine on the road in Annapolis on November 14th as the Midshipmen are always tough to beat late in the season. Overall, you can expect the Tigers to rack up another double-digit win season but miss out on defending their conference championship by one game in year one of Coach Silverfield’s leadership. 
Projected Bowl: Fenway Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 186.7 (39th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 298.4 (17, 3)
Total Offense: 485.1 (10, 3)
Scoring Offense: 40.4 (8, 3)
Rushing Defense: 187.6 (93, 9)
Pass Defense: 195.9 (20, 2)
Total Defense: 383.5 (61, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.4 (58, 6)
Turnover Margin: -0.07 (69, 8)
Sacks: 2.57 (34, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.93 (62, 6)