BYU Cougars vs. Memphis Tigers (-1.5, 56.5 o/u)
Two teams that finished the regular season red-hot will meet at the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl as the BYU Cougars (8-4) take on the Memphis Tigers (9-3, 7-1 American) on Monday, December 22, at Marlins Park in Miami (2:00 p.m.Eastern).
This season had three distinct phases for the BYU Cougars. They came out of the gate flying, winning their first four and reaching No. 18 in the rankings. Then the Cougars lost four straight games, giving up over 40 points per game. They stopped the bleeding with a win over Middle Tennessee, and parlayed that W into another four-game winning streak to close the season.
Their last victory was a 42-35 triumph of the Pac-12’s California Golden Bears. BYU, one of the last remaining independents in the nation, also earned an early season win over the Big 12’s Texas Longhorns, 41-7.
The Cougars consistently put a lot of points on the board – win or lose. They were only held under 30 points three times this year, and were never held to fewer than 20. They average 36.2 points per game, 20th in the nation. Apart from the four-game losing streak, the BYU defense was reasonably good. For the season, they averaged 25.3 points against, 55th in the country.
BYU will be facing a Memphis team that is not lacking for confidence.
“We have something to prove [in the bowl game against Memphis],” BYU receiver Mitch Mathews said. “Coach Mendenhall came back today and said that the Memphis coaches are pretty positive they are going to win, and they are almost acting like they have won. So I guess it is a chip on our shoulder to prove them wrong.”
The Tigers have reason to be confident. They went an impressive 9-3 on the year, and have won six in a row. (Their last loss was on October 11 against Houston.)
Like the Cougars, the Tigers score a lot of points, averaging 34.7 per game. Their defense has been the biggest reason for the win streak, though, allowing just 17.1 points per game on the season (fifth-best in the nation), and a scant 13.3 over the last six.
”Our kids are excited; many of them have never seen the ocean before, ” Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. ”We have a bunch of kids from the mid-south that haven’t traveled very much, and I know they’ll be excited to come down and enjoy the weather, the view, and the scenery.”
Memphis faced two ranked teams on the year, holding their own in a 42-35 road loss to then-No. 11 UCLA and getting crushed, 24-3, at then-No. 10 Ole Miss. Their best win was a 41-14 blowout over the Bearcats in Cincinnati.
BYU is 13–18–1 in bowl games, all-time. The Cougars have won four of their last five, but lost last year’s Fight Hunger Bowl against Washington, 31-16.
Memphis, a traditional basketball powerhouse, is just 3-3 in bowl games. Their last appearance was in 2008, and their last bowl win was in 2005 when they beat Akron, 38-31, in the Motor City Bowl.
The Tigers are 1.5-point favorites to end their bowl drought and the over/under is at 56.5.