Expectations for this year’s Memphis Tiger football team are very low. After all, last year’s Tiger football team was one of the worst teams in the nation finishing with a 1-11 record. Statistically Memphis ranked in the bottom half of college football in every statistic including finishing 115th in total D, 116th in points for, 117th in both total offense and points against, and 118thin turnover margin. Do not fret Tigers fans, there is a silver lining in every cloud and here are 5 reasons why Tiger football will get things turned around this year.
1) This is Coach Porter’s second season as head coach
Memphis and head Coach Larry Porter experienced some severe growing pains last year. Porter bought in new offensive and defensive schemes in his first year as head coach and it took a while for players to get accustomed to the changes. Now that players are acclimated to the way Coach Porter and his staff want things done everything should run more smoothly this season. Also, thanks to a full season of games in Porter’s system, the coaches now have a better understanding about the strength and weaknesses of each individual on the team and how to maximize the potential in every player. Coach Porter has begun to change the culture of Tigers football and fans will begin to see the benefits in this year’s team.
2) They have winnable out of conference games
One of the main reasons Memphis struggled mightily last year was that they played three teams from AQ (automatic qualifiers) conferences last year. Last year’s out of conference slate included a home game against Tennessee and trips to Mississippi State and Louisville, all of which resulted in blowout losses for the Tigers. It is a different story this year as the Tigers play just one school from an AQ conference this season (Mississippi St.) and that game is at home. Their other out of conference games are at home against FCS foe Austin Peay and trips to Arkansas State and MTSU (the Tigers’ lone win last year). The tigers have a legitimate chance to go 3-1 out of conference this year which will bring newfound excitement to the program and cause a huge boost in morale.
3) The in conference schedule is not as difficult as last year
Conference USA must have taken pity on Memphis because the in conference slate is extremely manageable this season. Memphis plays the two worst teams in the western division (Tulane and Rice), avoid the two best teams in the west (Houston and Tulsa), and they get East Carolina, Marshall, and UAB at home. They do go to divisional foes UCF and Southern Methodist (best two teams in the division), but Memphis is not going to beat them this year no matter where the games are played. The Tigers have a real shot at a 3-5 in conference record, which combined with their winnable out of conference schedule would make them bowl eligible this season.
4) There is no pressure on the Tigers this year
Memphis is a young team with very little pressure on them this year. Even though this is Coach Porter’s second year he is still rebuilding the program and he has not yet recruited the types of players he needs to be competitive on a week to week basis. Only 9 starters return to a team that was 1-11 last year so it is safe to say that Memphis will be the underdog in almost every game they play. Being the underdog can be an advantage, the lack of pressure will allow the team to play more loosely and relaxed. If they can get four or five wins this year will be a success. The Tigers are the hunter not the hunted and they will sneak up on teams who underestimate their ability.
It is no secret that the more confident your team is the better they will play and the more likely you are to win. Memphis lacked confidence under Coach Porter last year and it seemed like they did not expect to win. The familiarity with the system combined with an easier schedule and consistent play will lead to a more confident 2011 Tigers football team. This season everybody knows what to do which will allow the players to really cut loose on the football field and make more big plays. Memphis’ confidence will increase with every win they get causing them to become a more dangerous team.
C.J. Hurt covers Tiger football for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter @churtj09.
Photo by Joe Murphy.