Memphis Tigers Statistical Profile

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

On paper this is a game just like the last four have been, against a struggling team that will be over matched by the Bearcats superior skill and athleticism. Go ahead and abolish that notion from your memory bank, Memphis is much better than their record suggests. At least on defense.

Offense

Number Conference Rank National Rank
Rushing Yards Per Game 160.83 4 73
Rushing Yards Per Carry 4.04 7 81
Passing Yards Per Game 198.8 9 95
Passing Yards Per Attempt 6.1 8 103
Passer Rating 109.75 8 106
Yards Per Play 4.96 8 103

Justin Fuente made his name as the offensive coordinator for TCU from 2009 to 2011 when the Horned Frogs reached the high water mark of the Garry Patterson era behind the usual stellar play from the 4-2-5 and an abnormally productive ginger you might be aware of.

What is remembered about those TCU teams is the prolific production of Andy Dalton, but the Frogs success running the football has been overlooked. From 2009 to 11 TCU finished 5th, 10th and 19th in rushing, and that with only one back who topped a 1,000 yards. The key to those offenses was their ability to run the ball enough to force teams to keep 8 men in the box, which opened up the play action game.

Fuente has brought the same approach to Memphis. The run/pass ratio if 55/45, which is right about where the Frogs were, and much more balanced than the Tigers were in year one. They have been effective running the ball, but they still find themselves in third and longs with alarming frequency. Memphis has found themselves in third and longs 45 times this season, and that is a situation the Memphis simply is not built to convert.

Temple and Connecticut both came into their game with the Bearcats with abysmal passing games, but both had found some hope in true freshmen signal callers with P.J. Walker and Tim Boyle respectfully. There is no such hope for the Tigers. At least for the present.

Paxton Lynch has been installed as the starter from day 1 and he has played every meaningful snap at the position. The numbers aren't terrible, he is completing 60 percent of his passes and averaging slightly less than 200 yards per game. But the big explosive plays that open up an attack have not been there for the Tigers, they rank 110th in passing plays of 20+ yards and 122nd in plays of 30+ yards.

Opposing defenses are free to move an 8th guy into the box with something bordering on certainty that the Tigers won't be able to consistently make plays in those situations. It is hard for good offenses to string together 10, 12 or 15 straight positive plays to score; but that is what Memphis has to do to score.

Defense

Number Conference Rank National Rank
Rushing Yards Per Game 99 2 7
Rushing Yards Per Attempt 3.03 2 7
Passing Yards Per Game 232 6 68
Passing Yards Per Attempt 6.2 1 18
Passer Rating 116.15 3 23
Yards Per Play 4.74 2 13

As bad as the offense has been their defense has kept them in a ton of games. What makes the Tigers good defensively is that they have the faith in their corners to perform on an island. Bobby McCain and Andrew Gaines performed exceptionally well on their respective islands. When McCain went down in the UCF game Bakari Hollier stepped in and continued that high level of play.

The play of the secondary has allowed the Tigers to approach opposing offenses the same way teams approach their offense, by moving an eighth guy into the box and daring them to win outside. They won those outside match ups against Houston and Central Florida, holding both to season lows in passing yards, and passer rating. At the same time that same approach blew up in their face against SMU as two different Mustangs went over 100 yards receiving.

Disruptiveness

Opponents Memphis
Tackles For Loss 40 40
Sacks 17 16
Hurries 12 13
Pressure Percent 16% 24%
Interceptions 6 4
Passes Defended 22 28
Defensed/Incompletion Ratio 31% 51%

Memphis's approach to the passing game really works because of one guy, Martin Efedi. His presence as a distorting effect on protection schemes. He draws a double team on most downs, and when he does it creates one on one match ups for his mates, be it a lineman or often a blitzing linebacker. As a team the Tigers get after the passer, as their pressure percentage is the highest of any Bearcat opponent to date.

The pass rush helps, but this pass defense would be very good if you just plucked Efedi off the roster and replaced him with an average pass rusher. Just look at that defensed/incompletion ratio. Half of all opponent incompletion's are forced by the play of the Tiger defense. Mind you that has come against three top 30 passing offenses to date (the Bearcats will be the fourth). It is not a stretch to say that Memphis has the best secondary of any UC opponent to date.

Life On The Margins

Opponent Memphis
Interceptions Thrown 4 6
Opposition Fumbles 14 7
Opposition Fumbles Recovered 9 5
Recovery Percent 64% 71%
Turnover Margin 6 -6
Blocked Kicks 1 0
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage 68% 45%
Non Offensive Touchdowns 1 2

For all the success the Memphis defense has had there is one thing they simply don't do enough of, and that is forcing turnovers, generating just 9 on the year. That is the next step for that defense to take, and with almost every relevant player coming back next year they will be a trendy bowl sleeper next year. But for this year, there isn't much they can do about it.

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