Navy Midshipmen (1-4) vs. Memphis tigers (3-3) – Liberty Bowl Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
Friday 15th September 12.30am (UK)
Memphis 10.5 point favourites at the time of writing
The American Conference is such a diverse conference, with a bunch of really interesting programmes, who pose different threats to each other and also send a bunch of talent to the league each year.
It’ll actually be a little bit of a shame when it all breaks up and the overall level of the conference is inevitably lowered. So whilst we still have the American in its current format, we should enjoy it!
This game will of course be a big contrast of styles; Navy will be running their traditional triple-option offense, which is really one of the unique gems of college football and on the other side of this game. Memphis is allowing Freshman QB Seth Henigan to throw the ball around a little bit despite his inexperience. Although both teams have experienced mixed results so far this year.
Navy has only won one game this year and even suffered the embarrassment of being blown out by Air Force. Navy is a roster who are without any real stars, as always. The Midshipmen are all about execution and being a greater sum of their parts. Navy will roll out a bunch of funky looking run plays, some tricks and reverses, and you never know, maybe even the odd pass play too.
Navy has a stable of QBs and RB/FBs who they will cycle through throughout the game – Their leading rusher is Isaac Ruoss although he only has 233 yards and 2 TDs for the year so far.
The Memphis Tigers have had an up and down year so far, going out to a 3-0 lead including a nice win over Mississippi State but are coming off 3 straight losses – Two in conference and one to the very impressive UTSA team.
However, on to this week where I would give Memphis the edge in this one, mainly because of one man…
On offense for Memphis, it is all about Calvin Austin III, their Redshirt Freshman wide receiver, who has been a production machine so far this year with 873 yards and 8 scores through six games. Austin has over 100 yards in all but one game this year, he also has two 200 yard games as well – So he will be a big test for the Navy defensive backs.
Austin really feels like he’s going to be the game breaker in this one – He’s going to be the best player on the field and as previously mentioned, the Tigers are airing it out right now and I don’t expect that to change this evening.
Georgia Southern Eagles (2-4) vs. South Alabama Jaguars (3-2) – Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Friday 15th September 12.30am (UK)
South Alabama 3 point favourites at the time of writing
For me, this is the pick of the games tonight and if I was able to stay up for either of these games, this one would have my attention.
This one should be closer and it will also have more talent on show, and again be another really cool conference matchup between two differing teams.
Georgia Southern is a team with a couple of passers who are still finding their way in college football.
Cam Ransom started the season as a Freshman but the baton has been passed to Justin Tomlin now but no matter which player is at the controls for the Eagles, neither guy is really connecting the dots at a high rate – both hovering around 50% in terms of completion percentage. Tomlin, who despite being a Redshirt Junior, only started two games last season, hasn’t thrown a touchdown yet and has thrown four picks, but Ransom suffered an ankle injury earlier in the year.
Expect Georgia Southern to run the ball more than pass to attempt to look after the ball – The dangermen in this regard are Logan Wright and Gerald Green, the Eagles main men in the offensive backfield. Both of these guys have combined for 10 touchdowns and a shade under 900 yards on the ground. So we’re looking at a pair of runners who can shoulder the load and put the ball in the end zone.
On the flip side the Jaguars boast just about as experienced of a QB as you’ll find in college football.
Jake Bentley is a sixth year Graduate Senior who is on his third team after starting off in South Carolina, playing at Utah last year and now turning up on Mobile for his last dance.
A couple of years ago, Bentley had some Day 3 draft buzz – I felt that he could have made a roster and been a career backup if things fell the right way for him. However, now that ship seems to have sailed and he’s now rocking the Sun Belt conference and elevating those around him.
The biggest beneficiary of Bentley’s experience and presence under center is wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. Tolbert is a player with an NFL body-type at 6’3, 190 and with that he also possesses speed to be a legitimate deep threat on Sundays.
Tolbert isn’t getting into the end zone as frequently as he is used to, having scored 6 and 8 times in the past two seasons, and only scoring once so far this year, however, he is averaging over 20 yards per reception (21.8) this year.
With NFL scouts and GMs surely paying attention to Tolbert this year, this will certainly get him noticed!
Elsewhere the Jaguars do like to grind it out on the ground too – Whilst Bentley and Tolbert are the stars on offense, the ground game has been the key to scoring, with the team finding the end zone on twelve occasions whereas the aerial attack has scored just the four times.
I would expect the Jaguars to take this one and I’ll be watching for Tolbert to put up more Sunday-worthy tape on college football’s Thursday night week 7 curtain raiser.
Follow Lee on Twitter – @Wakefield90