(WMC-TV) - The Memphis Tigers open their season Saturday, August 30 against the Austin Peay Governors. The Tigers are looking to win their first season opener since 2004, against a team that finished 0-12 last season.
The Memphis Tigers return 6-foot-7, 230 pound true sophomore Paxton Lynch at quarterback. Lynch is the first Tiger QB to start back-to-back season openers since Arkelon hall in 2008 and 2009. Lynch threw for 2,056 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. Toward the end of 2013, Lynch found some mobility and picked up two rushing touchdowns, and four runs over 15 yards during the last five games.
Memphis returns sixth-year senior Brandon Hayes at running back. Hayes is the American Conference's returning rusher with 860 yards. He'll be helped by sophomore Foreland Dorceus and slot receiver Sam Craft. The Tigers used Craft in goal line situations, and the true sophomore scored five rushing touchdowns, to tie Hayes for the team lead.
The defense is led by a standout at each position section. On the defensive line, senior Martin Ifedi is a returning first team All-AAC performer. Ifedi led the AAC in sacks last season with 11.5. Senior Charles Harris leads the linebackers in coordinator Barry Odom's 3-4 defense. Harris has led Memphis in tackles the past two seasons. In the secondary, senior Bobby McCain was second in the AAC with six interceptions last season, despite missing three full games due to injury.
The Governors played against three FBS teams last season and were outscored 45-0, 38-3, and 38-0. Overall, opponents outscored Austin Peay 476-90 last season, with the Governors losing each game by an average of nearly five touchdowns. The Governors scored double digits in just four of their 12 games, and broke 20 points just once.
The Governors will be quarterbacked by a transfer, either Redshirt Junior Trey Taylor from Cordova, a transfer from Central Arkansas or Redshirt Freshman Darrien Boone, a transfer from Central Michigan. Starting at running back is Rashaan Coleman, who led the Governors with three rushing touchdowns last year. Coleman is also the team's returning leaders in receptions.
Austin Peay's defense is led by roaming "weak" safety Johnathan Shuler. The Governors run a 4-2-5, featuring three safeties. Shuler led the team in tackles with 76 out of his secondary free safety position. Last season, Austin Peay's defense gave up at least 31 points in every game.
The Tigers return an extremely experienced unit on defense, and will face a young team that struggled to score last season. These teams only had one common opponent last season - UT-Martin. Austin Peay hosted UT-Martin and lost 38-14, while the Tigers beat the Skyhawks 21-6 at home. Memphis is favored to win by 32 according to Las Vegas.