It's not one of the New Year's Six bowls that some thought BYU was headed for earlier in the season, but the Cougars ended up in one of the more intriguing bowl matchups outside of the New Year's Six or the College Football Playoff.
The game will mark the first meeting between BYU and Memphis, but Memphis Head Coach Justin Fuente has faced the Cougars in the past. Fuente was the running back coach and co-offensive coordinator at BYU's former Mountain West Conference foe, TCU, from 2007-2011.
BYU is coming off one of the most tumultuous years in its recent history. After a very strong 4-0 start to the season, it looked like an undefeated season was a real possibility for the Cougars. BYU's hopes for an undefeated season came to a halt in game five when starting QB, Taysom Hill, suffered a season ending injury in the Cougars first loss, to Utah State, in early October. Without Hill, the Cougars looked like a completely different team in October, losing three more games and several more key starters by month's end. Behind backup QB Christian Stewart, who has played very well in Hill's absence, BYU was able to regain composure and is coming off a four-game win streak to end the season.
The strength of this BYU team is its offense. Despite the challenges of losing their star QB and star running back for the season, the Cougars still managed to finish the season ranked as the 20th best team in the country in scoring at 36.2 points per game.
The Memphis Tigers' surprised a lot of folks this season by winning nine games, capturing their first share of a conference championship since 1969, and earning only their sixth bowl invitation. The Tigers will come into Miami riding a six-game winning, making them one of the hottest teams in the country. A big part of the Tigers' success has come from the play of sophomore QB, Paxton Lynch, who accounted for 28 touchdowns on the season. Lynch has been particularly effective during the Tigers' six-game win streak, throwing for nine touchdowns without a single interception and adding an additional four touchdowns on the ground.
Despite Lynch's success with the offense, the strength of this Memphis team is its defense. The Tigers are very good at keeping their opponents out of the end zone, ranking seventh in the country in scoring defense only allowing 17.1 points per game. The Tigers haven't given up more than 35 points all season.
The game will be on ESPN at 12:00 pm MST on December 22nd. Tickets for the game can be purchased for $60 at www.miamibeachbowl.com.