Auburn might have stumbled onto the ideal opponent for the Birmingham Bowl
At 6-6 for the season (last-place finish in the SEC West), the Tigers weren’t exactly in a position of power to dictate terms for bowl action — regarding opponent or venue.
All things considered, though, Auburn has been dealt a favorable hand.
Yes, the Tigers won’t experience the thrill of playing in a warm-weather or tropical venue, nor were they assigned a plum spot in the TV totem pole of bowl time slots for Dec. 30 (noon EST on a Wednesday). And from a snub perspective, Auburn stands as the only SEC bowl representative to draw a Group Of Five opponent (albeit from a respectable conference).
But the positives still outweigh the negatives here:
a) Auburn should be sky-high for the challenge of facing Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, who could be the top passer selected in next year’s NFL draft. Conversely, Lynch and the Memphis coaches must get creative to outsmart/outperform an Auburn defense which allowed three or more touchdown passes just once and only three outings of 300-plus passing yards.
b) Against the premier American Athletic Conference teams (Houston, Temple, Navy), the Memphis offense produced so-so averages of 22 points and 387 total yards.
c) Auburn has averaged 228 rushing yards in its last four games, including the Iron Bowl loss to Alabama. On the flip side, during the regular season, Memphis surrendered multiple rushing touchdowns to the opposition seven times.
From an intangible standpoint, though, Memphis likely has the edge. Even with a 9-3 overall record and a convincing victory over Ole Miss (which beat Auburn on Halloween), the Vegas bookmakers still have a bottom-feeder club from the SEC West as 2 1/2-point favorites in the bowl.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.