Know the Foe: Memphis
A look at Memphis, which comes Friday to Raymond James Stadium
Record: 4-0 (Defeated Missouri State, 63-7; Kansas, 55-23; Bowling Green, 44-41; Cincinnati, 53-46)
Coach: Justin Fuente (fourth season, 21-20)
The breakdown: Memphis, 5-31 in the three years prior to Fuente's arrival, has won 11 in a row dating to last season. To this point, only Baylor (64.0 ppg) and Ole Miss (54.8) are scoring more than the Tigers (53.8), whose starting offense features seven seniors and two juniors. Sixteen of Memphis' 23 big plays (20 or more yards) have come in the passing game, where 6-foot-7 redshirt junior Paxton Lynch (83-for-113, 1,230 yards, eight TDs, no INTs) is emerging as a fringe Heisman candidate. Nine Tigers have at least five receptions, compared to only four for USF. Defensively, Memphis lost eight starters and defensive coordinator Barry Odom from last season's team, and it shows. The Tigers rank 103rd nationally in total defense (453.8 ypg) after surrendering 752 against Cincinnati, but have come up with a clutch play in the waning moments
(pass breakup, interception) in each of their last two games.
Odds and ends: Memphis ranks 21st nationally in third-down efficiency (48.1 percent); USF is 124th (27.9). ... Three former Hillsborough County prep standouts -- RB Robert Davis (Carrollwood Day), RB Darius Lee (Brandon) and DE Ernest Suttles (Gaither) -- play for Memphis. Suttles is listed as a starter this week. ... P Spencer Smith is averaging an AAC-best 49.9 yards per attempt, nearly 4 more than USF's Mattias Ciabatti. ... Memphis has won nine of its last 10 games played in NFL stadiums.
Taggart's take: "Paxton Lynch, he went through some (growing pains) as a freshman, but each and every year, you watch the kid get better, and now he's just flawless. Everything he does, it's like he's already seen it, he already ran the play in his head, and there's no...holding the ball. It's coming out now. And if he doesn't have it, he's athletic enough to run and get the first down or touchdown for you. ... I'm sure he could just go out and call the plays; he knows it that well."