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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 6:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Wallace Wade Stadium (33,941) -- Durham, North Carolina. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Memphis 0-2, Duke 2-0. Away Record: Memphis 0-1, Duke 0-1. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, Duke 0-0. Conference Record: Memphis 0-0, Duke 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Justin Fuente continues to look for his first career victory as a head coach as he guides the Memphis Tigers into Wallace Wade Stadium for a non-conference clash with the Duke Blue Devils.
The third time was not a charm for Fuente, as his team's record and personal head coaching record dropped to 0-3 last week when the Tigers lost, 48-30, to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at home. Memphis opened up its season with a pair of losses to Tennessee-Martin (20-17) of the FCS and Arkansas State (33-28) of the Sun Belt Conference. The Tigers have been on the losing end in seven straight games dating back to last season.
The Tigers did not do themselves any favors against the Blue Raiders by turning the ball over four times, which Middle Tennessee turned into three touchdowns and a field goal to take control of the contest. Its six total fumbles on the night were the most since 1989.
Duke is off to a bright, 2-1 start this season after last week's easy victory over NC Central (54-17) of the FCS. Coach David Cutcliffe went 2-2 versus Memphis as the head coach of Ole Miss from 2001-2004. The Blue Devils began the season with an impressive win over FIU (46-26) before a tough loss to the Stanford Cardinal (50-13) on the road. Duke has had at least 400 yards of total offense in all three games and surprisingly, FIU is the only squad to reach that mark in return.
In their most recent action, the Blue Devils held NC Central to 337 total yards of offense and forced three turnovers.
The Tigers have increased their scoring output each week this season, but they still rank 86th in the FBS with an average of 25.0 points per contest. Last week the passing game showed drastic improvement.
In the loss last week, Jacob Karam guided the offense by completing 26 of his 37 passing attempts, for 325 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Marcus Rucker (177 yards, two TDs, 10 catches) and Keiwone Malone (102 yards, 10 catches) were the only two receivers with more than two catches and 20 yards for the Tigers.
Tailback Jerrell Rhodes has had ball security issues, but he is too talented to sit. Rhodes has amassed 224 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries in the struggling Tigers' offense.
The Memphis defense has big-play potential. The unit blocked a punt and recovered a fumble for a touchdown versus Arkansas State, but it has allowed 1,450 yards in three games.
Charles Harris leads the unit in tackles with 33, while Lonnie Ballentine has also been around the ball a lot as well (31 tackles and two interceptions). The Tigers have yet to record a sack this season.
Duke's Sean Renfree is susceptible to turnovers, as he comes in with five touchdown passes and three interceptions. Renfree has completed 73-of-104 passes for 769 yards in three games.
The passing attack is potent with the deadly Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon wideout combination. Crowder has team-best totals of 23 catches and 298 yards with two scores, while Vernon is close behind with 280 yards and a touchdown on 21 receptions.
Although its passing attack is adept, Duke is averaging an unimpressive 94.7 yards on the ground through three games. Josh Snead, Jela Duncan, Juwan Thompson, and Brandon Connette have all seen action out of the backfield, but none of them have been able to emerge as a go-to-guy.
The Blue Devils are decent against opposing rushing attacks, but they have been exposed as a poor defensive team against the pass. They rank 105th out of 120 FBS schools with an average of 289.3 passing yards allowed per contest.
Duke has compiled eight total sacks as a team. Walt Canty is the team's leading tackler with 27 total stops, while Ross Cockrell has an ACC best three interceptions.
Memphis will need to move the ball through the air and limit turnovers in order to pull of an upset of the Blue Devils. The Tigers have struggled to this point despite facing opponents inferior to Duke. The Blue Devils should have no problem putting up big numbers for the second week in a row against their rebuilding C-USA opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 45, Memphis 21
09/19 10:40:39 ET
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