College football preview 2018: 10 unranked teams most likely to surprise

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic Owls. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic Owls. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images /

There may not have been a more unlikely combo than Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller last season and there definitely wasn’t a better one. Ferguson, a transfer quarterback, threw for over 4,200 yards and 38 touchdowns and Miller, a hometown kid who hadn’t been offered a scholarship out of high school, put up his second straight 1,400-yard season, plus 19 touchdowns, and he finished his career as the program’s all-time leading receiver.

Ordinarily, a non-power five team losing a pair like Ferguson and Miller would expect a serious drop-off the following season. The Tigers will definitely miss them, but Memphis has turned into a program that can withstand major defections due to the recruiting efforts of former head coach Justin Fuente and current head coach, Mike Norvell.

Tony Pollard, Jr., who played receiver, running back and returned kicks last year, will be a big part of the offense this season, especially the passing game. Running backs Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor combined for 2,000 yards on the ground last season and will be back too.

At quarterback, grad-transfer Brady White, Jr. is expected to take over for Ferguson. White was the highest rated quarterback recruit ever to sign at Arizona State. After redshirting, then playing in limited minutes as an underclassman, he graduated in three years and made the decision to transfer to Memphis to play for the Norvell, who’d been the offensive coordinator at Arizona State before coming to Memphis.

Defensively, Memphis has a handful of upperclassmen returning and several talented sophomores expected to make major contributions. Memphis scored 45 points a game last season and every close game was a shootout so the defense wasn’t great in 2017, especially the pass defense. If they can somewhat improve, especially on third down, it will go a long way to helping Memphis bounce back even if the offense regresses some in 2018.

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