The Jared Birmingham Bowl is the first of four college football games being played on Saturday, Dec. 22. Kickoff is 12 pm ET at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The game features the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6, 5th ACC – Atlantic) at the Memphis Tigers (8-5, 1st AAC – West). Our 2018 Birmingham Bowl preview has the Tigers at -3.5 and the over/under at anywhere from 71.5 to 72.5. This is projected to be a high-scoring contest.
The Demon Deacons seemed to alternate wins and losses. They started the season winning two and then losing two. Wake Forest had a tough schedule as they played four nationally-ranked teams, losing to three of those teams, #8 Notre Dame, #4 Clemson, and #19 Syracuse. They did beat #14 NC State 27-23.
This season, Memphis started the season at 3-1 with the one loss being 22-21 to Navy. At one point, the Tigers won four in a row. Big losses were to #10 UCF 31-30 and to #8 UCF once again. That second loss to the UCF Knights was in the AAC championship game. Memphis lost that contest 56-41 in a shootout. Here our 2018 Birmingham Bowl preview, analysis, and pick.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Analysis
Wake Forest averaged 32.5 PPG. They were good for a total of 443.2 YPG of offense. Their ground attack averaged 214.8 YPG, while the Demon Deacon air game put up 226.4 YPG. Freshman QB Sam Hartman went down with an injury late in the season. We expect sophomore Jamie Neuman (61.4 COMP%, 8 TDs, 3 INTs) to answer the call. His top target should be sophomore WR Greg Dortch (89 REC, 12.1 YPC, 8 TDS). Dortch has over 1,000 yards in receiving this season. Junior RB Cade Carney (954 YDs, 5.4 YPA, 8 TDs) is the primary threat on the rush.
Although the Demon Deacons could score, they could not stop other teams from doing so. The Wake Forest defense allowed opponents 33.3 PPG and 465.3 YPG. That included 274 passing yards and 191.2 rushing yards. In terms of effectiveness, the team’s passing defense, which grabbed just four picks all season, is especially worrisome. The D does have over 70 TFL with defensive linemen Carlos Basham Jr. and Willie Yarbary each scoring 10 TFL.
Memphis Tigers – Analysis
The Tigers posted on average 43.6 PPG and a total of 534.3 YPG. This is an exceptionally dynamic offense. Their rushing game averaged 285.5 YPG. In the air, Memphis totaled up 248.8 YPG. The Tiger ground game can simply wear down opponents. Junior running back Darrell Henderson has amassed 1,909 yards this season, averaging 8.9 YPA and scoring 22 TDs. Patrick Taylor Jr., another junior, has rushed for 1,012 yards, scoring 15 times while averaging 5.7 YPA.
QB Brady White (63.3 COMP%, 25 TDs, 8 INTs) is solid in the pocket. He’s thrown for over 3,000 yards this season. He has four pass catchers who can get the job done, including sophomore Damonte Coxie (86 REC, 1,104 YDs, 7 TDs). He’s averaging 16.7 YPC.
Our 2018 Birmingham Bowl preview notes that the Memphis defense was soft, permitting opponent teams 31.5 PPG. But this still allowed the Tigers a PF/PA differential of +12.1 PPG. Teams averaged 250.8 YPG in passing and 169.5 YPG in rushing. Memphis has more than 90 TFL and over 40 sacks. Like their opponents, the Tiger secondary is less effective than their line. They had eight interceptions while defending 46 passes. LB Bryce Huff is a premium player. He leads the team in TFL (19.5) and sacks (9.5).
Five Keys to the Game
- Wake Forest must stop Memphis offense
- Tiger rushing game is brutal on opponents.
- Demon Deacons also have a productive ground attack
- Difference may be in Memphis D, which is better than WF defense
- Injuries have weakened Wake Forest
Our 2018 Birmingham Bowl Preview – Pick
As noted, this game offers Memphis at -3.5 We think that the Tigers’ offense will overwhelm Wake Forest. Our 2018 Birmingham Bowl preview is going with Memphis at -3.5. The over is huge at 71.5. But we can see Memphis scoring 50 or more points today and the Demon Deacons around 27. Go with the over on this game. We have every postseason college football pick. Get these great free picks through our 2018 FBS hub page.