Memphis faces Wake Forest in Birmingham Bowl without star RB

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(University of Memphis athletics)

Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Memphis (8-5), Saturday, 12 p.m. Eastern (ESPN)

Line: Memphis by 3-1/2.

Series Record: Tied 2-2.

Key matchup

Memphis’s short-handed running game against Wake Forest’s defense. The Tigers rank second nationally in rushing offense, but will be without unanimous All-American RB Darrell Henderson. Wake Forest is 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference in run defense, allowing 191.3 yards per game and 29 touchdowns on the ground.

Players to watch

Wake Forest: WR Greg Dortch earned All-ACC honors as an all-purpose back/return specialist. He had 89 catches for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns and was a second-team AP All-American punt returner.

Memphis: RB Patrick Taylor has run for 1,012 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. His role figures to get even bigger with Henderson not playing in this game. Taylor’s 2,424 career yards ranks fifth in program history.

Facts & figures

Henderson is skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. Henderson’s 1,909 rushing yards ranked second nationally and he led the FBS with 25 total touchdowns and an 8.9-yard per carry average.

Memphis has already lost offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham (Auburn), defensive coordinator Chris Ball (head coach Northern Arizona) and associate head coach Will Hall (Tulane) to other jobs. Dillingham won’t coach in the bowl game.

Wake Forest is playing in three consecutive bowl games for just the second time in school history.

The Demon Deacons won four road games and three ACC road games for the first time since 2006.

Wake Forest has suffered 13 season-ending injuries, including nine on defense.

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