It might be unprecedented to have nearly a full month off between games, but that is the situation facing No. 25 Memphis on Saturday as it visits SMU in an American Athletic Conference game in Dallas.
The Tigers (1-0, 0-0 AAC) haven’t played since their season-opening 37-24 win over Arkansas State on Sept. 5 due to COVID-19 cases that caused the program to pause activities and cancel games against Houston and UTSA.
Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said that “a majority” of his team is back and he is confident the players are in a good spot to play.
“We feel like we are getting back where we need to be,” he said. “Still not at full strength, nor will we be at kickoff. But we are getting to where we need to be to where we feel comfortable having normal practices.”
Such a long layoff leads to obvious questions as to how rusty and conditioned Memphis will be, and Silverfield admitted the team will have to rotate more players in and out in all three phases of the game.
As for the rust element, Silverfield feels there is a good solution.
“We have to be fundamentally sound,” he said. “That’s how you try and knock the rust off.”
SMU coach Sonny Dykes told MustangVision that it will be hard to get a read on Memphis given its layoff, but he pointed out that the Tigers have won a lot of games over the last three years and that they will be ready to play.
“They may not have played for a while, but those guys have a lot of skins on the wall,” Dykes said. “They have won a lot of football games.”
Unlike Memphis, the Mustangs (3-0, 0-0) should be in a rhythm since they have played three games this year, the latest being a 50-7 rout of Stephen F. Austin last week.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did (last Saturday),” Dykes said. “But I think our guys are feeling pretty good. They have some confidence and are excited about the opportunity on Saturday.”
The game will feature two of the best quarterbacks in the AAC and arguably two of the best quarterbacks at non-Power 5 programs in the country, Memphis senior Brady White and SMU senior Shane Buechele.
White completed 27 of 37 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Arkansas State. He has passed for more than 7,500 yards to go along with 63 touchdowns in his career at Memphis.
Buechele is off to a good start for the Mustangs, completing 64 of 94 passes for 852 yards with seven touchdowns after throwing for 3,929 yards and 34 scores last year.
With White and Buechele leading prolific offenses, the game has a good chance to match last year’s high-scoring affair, won 54-48 by Memphis.
–Field Level Media