Birmingham Bowl: Back Auburn -2.5 vs. Memphis With Your College Football Picks

Ross Benjamin

Saturday, December 19, 2015 1:37 AM GMT

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 1:37 AM GMT

Our college football analyst provides us with an early breakdown of the bowl matchup between Memphis and Auburn and provides a college football pick.

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College Football Pick: Auburn -2.5

Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Birmingham Bowl
Memphis (9-3) will take on Auburn (6-6) in the Birmingham Bowl on Wednesday 12/30. The opening kickoff at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama is slated for Noon ET. Current (12/18) college football odds at The Greek have Auburn as a 2.5 point favorite.

 

Memphis Without Justin Fuente
The Memphis Tigers will be playing in this bowl game without their now former head coach Justin Fuente. Virginia Tech wasted no time following the conclusion of the Tigers regular season in hiring Fuente to replace legendary head coach Frank Beamer (retiring). Fuente has done nothing short of a miraculous job of reviving the Memphis football program. He inherited a team in 2012 that had gone a combined 3-21 during its prior two seasons. The Tigers have gone 19-6 during the past two seasons under Fuente, and were ranked #16 in the AP Poll this season after getting off to an 8-0 start. Darrell Dickey will assume interim head coaching duties for this upcoming bowl game. Former Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell was recently signed to a 5-year contract as their new head coach, and he’ll take over immediately after the Birmingham Bowl.

 

Highly Coveted Quarterback
It’s no secret that NFL scouts have been clamoring over the potential of Memphis 6’7 junior quarterback Paxton Lynch. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll be a first round choice in the 2016 NFL Draft. All Lynch has done this season is throw for 3670 yards and 28 touchdowns while being intercepted just three times. He also completed an impressive 69% of his pass attempts, in addition to running for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns. Regardless of facing a SEC opponent, Lynch will unequivocally be the best quarterback on the field. Lynch leads a Memphis offense that is #7 nationally in scoring averaging 42.7 points per game, and 13th in total offense at 510.4 yards per contest.

 

Disappointing Season
The Auburn Tigers were expected to be much better in 2015 than what ultimately transpired. Those thoughts were quickly disintegrated before the calendar even turned to October, and they’ll now look for a win in this bowl game to just attain a winning 2015 campaign. On a positive note, playing against outstanding SEC competition this season is sure to pay dividends versus Memphis. Despite the disparity in records between these Birmingham Bowl combatants, Auburn will be the more physical and athletic of the two teams. It’s just a matter of how motivated they’ll be. You can’t discount the fact that they’ll be playing in their home state, and it will be an overwhelmingly pro Auburn crowd in attendance.

Must Read: A Brief Primer on Handicapping Bowl Games

Final Thoughts and Pick
My strength of schedule ratings indicates that Auburn has a substantial +7.6 edge over Memphis. If Auburn needs a reason to take their AAC opponent seriously, all they have to do is watch the tape of Memphis’ 37-24 upset win over Ole Miss earlier this season. However, after getting off to its 8-0 start, Memphis dropped three of their final four games, and their only win during that sequence came over a 2-10 SMU squad. I’m going to lean toward using the small favorite in this game for one of my college football picks.

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