The start of the 2013 college football season is a few short days away, and there is an air of anticipation in Memphis. Getting to this point has taken longer than expected, but the University of Memphis Tigers are finally in an automatic bid conference (even if it is just for one year) and hopes are high for this year’s squad.
It is tough to pinpoint exactly where this optimism is coming from, but there is a lot to be excited about this year for Memphis football fans.
However, Memphis is still a program that has not ended the year with a winning record since 2007, has failed to make it to a bowl game since 2008, and is making the leap to a much tougher conference.
Here are the Top 5 Memphis Football Storylines for the 2013 season:
The move to the American Athletic Conference:
At last, the Tigers have joined the big boys of the FBS, and now all Memphis has to do is win their conference and they get into a BCS game. If they remained in Conference USA they would have had to go undefeated and be conference champions to even get a sniff at a chance to play in a BCS bowl. Also, there is the reunion with two of the Tigers archrivals, Louisville and Cincinnati. Fans cannot wait to see how well Memphis does in its inaugural year as AAC members.
Building on the momentum from the end of last season:
The Tigers ended the year on a three game win streak, their longest win streak since 2008 (the last time Memphis was bowl eligible). This win streak was thanks in large part to their running game which averaged 174.8 rushing yards per game in the Tigers’ final four contests, including a 275 yard performance against Southern Mississippi in their Conference USA finale. Memphis also beat a Rice unit that went on to win the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Can they carry the win streak over to this season?
Quarterback battle between Jacob Karam and Paxton Lynch:
It has been five years since the Memphis quarterback who ended the year as starter, played in the first game of the following year as starter. The last quarterback to do that for Memphis was none other than Arkelon Hall, and since that time it has been a proverbial carousel of starting quarterbacks for the Tigers. After setting school record last season in accuracy, many people expected Karam to be the quarterback to break that trend, but Lynch has emerged as the man who is going to lead the Tigers offense on opening day. If Lynch struggles, Karam could be thrust back into the starting lineup. This will be something to keep an eye on all season.
Coach Fuente’s second season:
After winning more games in his first year as head coach than the Tigers won the previous two seasons combined, Fuente got a one year extension and is the type of coach Tigers fans have dreamed of having. His fiery personality, mixed with a desire to get the most out of his players every single play, has fans believing that he can carry Memphis from the cellars of the FBS to a more respectable level. Many felt like the Tigers overachieved last year, and hope that Coach Fuente can continue to build on last season’s success.
Bowl watch 2013:
Finishing the year with a winning conference record and being just two games away from bowl eligibility last season has many fans thinking about a possible bowl berth this year. Mentioning Memphis and bowl eligibility does not seem like such a farfetched idea for the first time in a while. After all, if Memphis would have beat FCS foe UT-Martin in that unusual season opener (the contest was delayed three hours), and if they could have found a way to finish a remarkable comeback on the road against Marshall, the Tigers would have finished last year as a bowl eligible 6-6 team. It is not going to be easy, as Memphis should be the underdogs in most of their games this year.
CJ Hurt covers Tigers football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games throughout the Mid-South.
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