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November 8, 2013

Memphis-UT Martin: By the Numbers

The Memphis Tigers complete a three-game homestand with their Homecoming Game this Saturday afternoon at the Liberty Bowl versus the UT-Martin Skyhawks. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. with the game being televised on the Internet on ESPN3. Check your local listing to see if your Internet provider allows you to stream the game live on your computer.

Memphis has been competitive in every game this fall but has a difficult time getting into the win column, struggling to a 1-6 record. The Skyhawks come into town with a 6-3 mark.

Make no mistake about it, though: this is a football game that Memphis both should and must win. Despite stumbling to UTM, 20-17, last year in the season opener (and in the head coaching debut of Memphis field general Justin Fuente), the disparity in talent between these clubs is distinct. Memphis gets better athletes.

With a full season-and-a-half under his belt, we predict that Fuente and Memphis work out the kinks that have been afflicting them during their current four-game losing streak and break back into the win column against a game but over-matched Skyhawk team. If the Tigers lose, it's a crushing and utterly inexcusable defeat.

Leading the charge for UT-Martin is senior running back D.J. McNeil from Briarcrest High School. McNeil has had a break-out season for the Skyhawks, having already eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing barrier with 1,007 in just 9 games. At 106 per contest, he's on pace to amass 1,272 yards on the season. Last season, he ranked fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference with nine (9) rushing TDs and has six (6) more so far this season.

McNeil notched 1,191 all-purpose yards with 23 TDs as a senior at Briarcrest, catching the eye of UTM. He scored a pair of TDs last year in the UTM win and has promised to score four more against the Tigers this weekend to make them pay for the snub of not recruiting him when Larry Poter was the Memphis head coach.

Including McNeil, UTM has a total of 14 student-athletes from Memphis and surrounding suburban areas. So while Tiger fans have been playing up the revenge factor after last season's loss, the Skyhawks have the motivation of wanting to prove that the hometown team made a mistake in letting them slip away to UTM, just 95 miles north up Highway 55.

Memphis leads the all-time series against UTM, 5-3, but before 2012, it had been 1925 (a staggering 87 years) since Hall-Moody, as UTM was once known, managed a win against the Tigers. Memphis looks to get back to its winning ways on Homecoming this Saturday night.

And now, it's time to examine this matchup By the Numbers.

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