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What you need to know: BYU vs Memphis preview

BYU and Memphis will meet for the first time on the gridiron when they pair up in the Miami Beach Bowl.

Paxton Lynch will lead the Tigers against the Cougars in the Miami Bowl
Paxton Lynch will lead the Tigers against the Cougars in the Miami Bowl
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars and the Memphis Tigers have never met on the gridiron in the regular or postseason. With Memphis being a member of the American Athletic Conference, and BYU playing a number of AAC members, the two teams did share three opponents this year. Similar to BYU, the Tigers beat Middle Tennessee by 19 (BYU by 20), Houston by 4 (BYU by 8), and Connecticut by 31 (BYU by 25).

The Outlook

Coming off an emotional win in Berkeley, CA the Cougars are looking forward to one last game as they put the season to rest. The Cougars offense again showed up to play while the defense made the plays when needed in a 42-35 win, capping a four game winning streak as they enter the bowl game. Even with four straight wins, fans are feeling guarded optimism as the final game approaches, leading to a tempered excitement to finish out the year.

The Positives

The offense once again ruled the day as Christian Stewart passed for 433 yards and the Cougars combined for another 107 on the ground for an offensive explosion. Jordan Leslie and Mitchell Juergens really stepped up for the offense as Leslie had 155 yards on five receptions and Juergens had 107 yards on seven receptions. Stewart outplayed his respected counterpart, Jared Goff, with five touchdowns and an efficiency rating of 194.4. With Stewart under center, the Cougars offense has been dynamic and will have one last opportunity to test an opposing defense.

The Negatives

Once again, the Cougars were unable to display a killer instinct and put a team away. In this game it didn't cost the Cougars a win, but it very well could have. Tied at 21 midway through the third quarter, the Cougars had just come off an 85-yard drive to tie the game and the defense intercepted the ball in Cal territory.

Driving again, the Cougars made it inside the 5-yard line before a botched zone read ended up with Cal recovering a backwards lateral and not only stopping the Cougars scoring drive to take the lead, but they took the lead back on their own scoring drive -- a 14-point swing. Crucial scoring drives, or turnovers, have the ability to take the breath out of a team and the Cougars missed on their chance to put the Bears out to pasture.

The Match-up

Third Down Conversions

Third down conversions will be a key in this game as the teams look to prolong drives and score or flip field position. The Tigers are a top 30 team in third down defense as they sit at 27th nationally, only giving up conversions 36% of the time. BYU on the other hand is 32nd in offensive 3rd down conversion, converting on almost 45% of their 3rd downs. On the other hand Memphis is ranked 96th in offensive conversions and BYU is 43rd in third down defense. It isn't hard to see that the team that wins this battle will have the upper hand, especially if the game goes down to the wire.

The Keys to Watch

When the Tigers have the ball:

Watch for the Tigers to let quarterback Paxton Lynch make plays. Lynch is completing 64% of his passes and is only 275 yards short of the 3000 yard mark for the year. Lynch is averaging over seven yards per attempt, 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions. With a slew of receivers from which to choose, Lynch can pick and choose his target as five have at least 25 catches.

Although Lynch has the ability to throw the ball, the most damage is done by the Tigers rushing game as they average almost 200 yards per game on the ground. Lynch is a big part of this, as he is one of four players to have at least 70 rushing attempts and one of five to have over 200 yards. Lynch also leads the team with 10 rushing touchdowns. Brandon Hayes is the Tigers big-time running back as he comes in with 174 carries, 900 yards and five touchdowns.

Watch for the Cougars to be stout against the run and make the offense beat them through the air. The Cougars will look to keep Lynch from making noise on the ground, especially inside the 20. Watch for the Cougars to get pressure early, making sure that the offense doesn't have time to get behind the secondary, lessening the chance of the big play.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for BYU to continue to feed the ball to Leslie and Mathews. Mathews is returning from having concussion symptoms in the Cal game after his only catch, and should be ready to make up for it against a defense out to prove itself. The Cougars will still run the ball but will do it situationally as their success will be determined through the air. As Leslie and Mathews find the seams, the defense will have to drop back, opening up the run for Paul Lasike and Algernon Brown.

Watch for the Tigers to play physical on the receivers and try to not let them get into their routes. Don't expect them to have breakdowns like Cal did, but opportunities will be available for the receivers to get down field. Watch for the Tigers to defend the pass first and force the Cougars to rush the ball.

Interesting Tidbit

Although Memphis has a character mascot that interacts with the fans, their official mascot is a real tiger named Tom III. The name Tom was decided on as it stands for Tigers Of Memphis. The first Tom was presented to the school and fans in 1972. The second was presented in 1991 and the current Tom was donated and presented in 2008.

Next Meeting

There are no future meetings scheduled at this time between the schools.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 12:00 pm MDT

Where: Marlins Park - Miami, FL

TV: ESPN

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here