The first ever Montgomery Bowl will be played on December 23rd at 6 p.m. Central Time on ESPN and is being played at the legendary Cramton Bowl. The game showcases the Memphis Tigers from the American Athletic Conference and the Florida Atlantic Owls from Conference USA. This is not the first time the two schools have met in the postseason. The two schools played in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl where the Owls were victorious 44-27 behind a great passing performance from Rusty Smith. Both teams have seen some bowl success recently. For Memphis this is their 7th consecutive bowl appearance, and Florida Atlantic is making their second straight appearance.
2020 Montgomery Bowl Preview
Under first year head coach Ryan Silverfield, the Tigers finished third in the American Athletic Conference with a 7-3 record. Like teams in the past few seasons, Memphis is led by its potent offense. That offense is completely reliant on the passing game. Senior quarterback Brady White captains that side of the ball. White on the year passed for 3,096 yards and 28 touchdowns at a 60% completion rate. That just adds to a stellar career that has seen White throw for 10,665 yards and 89 touchdowns.
Targets to pay attention to are junior wide receiver Calvin Austin III and senior tight-end Sean Dykes. Austin on the season caught 60 passes for 1,025 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had three games of 150 yards or more in victories over Stephen F. Austin, UCF, and Temple. Dykes was third on the team with 47 receptions and added 581 yards with seven touchdowns. The tight-end opened the season against Arkansas State with 10 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively the Tigers have struggled most of the season. They are next to last in the AAC defensively giving up 448-7 yards per game, and almost 30 points per contest. On the positive though, they are third in rush defense and fifth in sacks. Leading that side of the ball is defensive lineman Morris Joseph with his 7 sacks. While they have given up a ton of yards through the air, they do have playmakers in the secondary. The Tigers on the season have 11 total interceptions and six come from Rodney Owens and Quindell Johnson.
Florida Atlantic Owls
The Owls finished second in Conference USA East with a 4-2 record and 5-3 overall. Like the Tigers, Florida Atlantic are led by a new coach this season in Willie Taggart. The difference with Taggart though is he had been a head coach at the FBS level in the past. So, getting a team to a bowl game is nothing new for the Owls head coach. This is the third different program he has led to the postseason.
Unlike the Tigers, who are led by their offense, the Owls are led by their defense. This is a unit that finished second in Conference USA giving up just 16.5 points per contest. They allowed just 326.4 yards per game, that was third in the conference. One of their more impressive performances of the season was their 24-3 victory over the UT-San Antonio. The Road Runners finished the season second in the conference averaging almost 414 yards a game, but the Owls held them to just 230 yards. The unit is led by senior linebacker Leighton McCarthy who led Conference USA with nine sacks.
On offense it has mostly been a struggle. The Owls average just 20 points per game during the season and ranked tenth in their conference in total offense. Florida Atlantic has used two different quarterbacks during the season. They have the passer in Nick Tronti and the runner in Javion Posey. Tronti only threw for 759 yards on the season, and Posey was also the leading rusher for the Owls with 401 yards. Several different rushers contributed to the Owls ground attack that was fourth in the conference. James Charles was the leader of the running backs with 347 yards and four touchdowns.
Montgomery Bowl Prediction
This is the classic match-up of great offense versus great defense. Maybe ten years ago most would lean toward the defensive team, but in 2020 offense reigns supreme. The Memphis offense will just be too much for the Florida Atlantic defense, and the Owls will not be able to put up enough offense. The Memphis Tigers win 38-17.