It is finally football season and opening day is fast approaching. All of us have been waiting patiently for the season to begin. Especially Memphis Tigers fans, who want nothing more than to wash the bitter taste of the 5-31 record during the past three seasons out of their mouths. Hopes are high for this year’s squad, just like last year. However, this looks to be a rebuilding year for the Tigers who have their third head coach in four years, a low number of scholarship players, and a severe lack of depth. But do not fret die hard Tigers’ fans for this year will certainly be full of excitement and bring you plenty of memorable moments. Below are five reasons to be excited about this year’s Memphis Tigers.
1. Winnable home games:
Fans should be thrilled that the Tigers have three winnable home games on the schedule this year. Now when I say winnable I do not mean competitive contest where Memphis only loses by a touchdown or two. I mean games Memphis should be favored in and win. This year, instead of opening against Mississippi State (like they did last year),Memphis will play FCS foe UT Martin which is almost a guaranteed victory. MTSU is also included in the home slate. And while the Blue Raiders lead the all-time series 15-8-1, the home team is 7-1 in the last eight games which bodes well for the Tigers. Another possible victory will be against Tulane who the Tigers have beaten the last six times the two have played, including a victory last year for their only conference win of the year.
2. Unknown NFL quality talent:
Last year it was Dontari Poe, but do the Tigers’ have a player on this year’s team that is going to contribute at the NFL level? The possibility makes every Memphis fan wonder who “that guy” is. It might be Akeem Davis, who is a stellar cornerback and the teams leading returning tackler. He also had three interceptions to lead the team last year. Punter Tom Hornsey is another player on the Tigers’ roster with NFL caliber talent. Hornsey was named freshman All American and has averaged at least 42 yards per kick the past two seasons. Maybe there is a player on the roster that we do not know about yet who is going to have a break out year and emerge as the next big thing out of Memphis.
3. Historic last year as a Conference USA member:
This year marks the end of their affiliation with Conference USA as Memphis will be joining the Big East next football season. Memphis has been in several conferences throughout their football history (Mississippi Valley Conference, SIAA, Missouri Valley Conference, and Metro Conference), and the Tigers were even independent for some years. The move to the Big East is more than welcomed, and it is not just because of their BCS automatic bid and the money that comes along with it. Since joining C-USA 16 seasons ago the Tigers have amassed an abysmal 44-73 conference record with no conference championships. So a change of conference scenery might be just what the team needs to motivate them to try and go out on top and snag the university’s first C-USA Championship.
4. New amenities in the Liberty Bowl:
The Liberty Bowl under went some renovations this off season to get ready for the Tigers’ jump to the Big East. There are more lights in the stadium for night games, more concession stands, and a new Astroturf on the field. But the biggest (literally) and most notable addition to the Liberty Bowl is the 98’ X 48’ Jumbotron located in the south endzone, and when you add the speakers to it the giant video board measures in at a staggering 106’ X 58’. It is the sixth largest video board in all of college football. Add to it the smaller LED board in the north endzone (38’ X 10’), and you have two video boards that will certainly enhance all Liberty Bowl patrons’ game experience.
5. Beginning of a new era:
This is Justin Fuente’s first head coaching gig after being offensive coordinator at TCU for the past three years. He has coached some impressive offenses in his time at TCU, and hopes to bring the success he had at TCU to Memphis this year. The up pace tempo offense that Fuente has implemented will surely captivate Tigers’ fans, especially after last year’s team finished last in C-USA in total yards (117th nationally). There is more energy and excitement surrounding this team than there has been the past three years, and that is because the Fuente era is upon us. Do not miss out on it.
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CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.