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November 18, 2013

Tigers turn their attention to Louisville

The Memphis Tigers made history last Saturday, earning the program's first win in the American Athletic Conference, 23-10, on the road at the South Florida Bulls.

Though it wasn't a great effort on the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers defense stepped up once again, forcing five turnovers and giving up just 325 yards. The biggest part about the win is it keeps the team's hopes for a bowl bid alive.

However, to achieve that feat, Memphis has to overcome a monumental task with a trip to the Louisville Cardinals looming this weekend.

"Obviously, we have a humongous challenge this week," head coach Justin Fuente said. "We're playing a very good football team and a very good football program in all three phases of the game. (Louisville) is very solid on special teams. If I'm not mistaken, I think they're second in the country in total defense."

To say this game will be a challenge would be an understatement. The Tigers are going to be tested thoroughly in every phase of the game. The Louisville offense is loaded with play makers, most notably quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater was considered a Heisman frontrunner to start the season and though he isn't being heavily considered to this point, he is still one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country and is a lock to go high in the 2014 NFL Draft.

"It appears to me that he does a great job operating at the line of scrimmage," Fuente said. "Obviously he's got a good frame and can throw the football and all those things, but just from a mental aspect, he seems to have a pretty good grasp of getting them in the right place and checks. He seems to have a pretty good handle on the position and what they're trying to accomplish on any given play."

No quarterback is great without a talented group of receivers at his disposal and Bridgewater has that. Damian Copeland and DeVante Parker have 600 yards receiving a piece and have given opposing defenses trouble all season. The Tigers secondary is going to have the biggest challenge to date trying to slow down the Cardinals' high-powered offense.

But, you can't forget the Louisville defense, which has been somewhat overshadowed by the offense. It is a group that is allowing less than 240 yards per game and has allowed more than 15 points just once.

"They're big and fast, well coached, can rush the passer, go after the running game, play on odd front and even front. They have a couple special kids that they can move around without any problems. And then in the back end, they have some pretty special kids back there as well, so it's not like there's one position group or one player that can make plays."

Any way you look at it, Memphis is going to have to be on their A game to pull off the upset. That will start with senior running back Brandon Hayes having success on the ground against a very talented Cardinals front end. If the defense can create some turnovers and limit big plays and the offense can find a way to move the ball against a stout Cardinals defense, Memphis could have a chance at pulling off the school's biggest win since 1996 against Tennessee.

Game time is set for 11 a.m. CT and will be the ESPN Regional American Game of the Week.

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