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Advanced Statistical Preview Of The Cincinnati Bearcats vs The Memphis Tigers

This game is one of weird match up's. The Bearcats and the Memphis defense will be a good, tightly contested battle between an offense that is at bare minimum great in the passing game and bad in the running game. That first bit is obviously the Bearcats offense, but Memphis is good across the board defensively, even if they are not great at any one thing. The other side of the ball will feature an exciting matchup between a pile of tires that is on fires and a dumpster that is on fire. In that matchup everything burns and no one wins.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

earlier in the day we had the traditional post about the Memphis Tiger's statistical leaders. While you can learn a little bit about the Tigers that way, you can glean more information by using the advanced statistics practiced by publications like Football Outsiders and SB Nation's own Football Study Hall. Definitions for the measures below can be found here.

Cincinnati Offense Memphis Defense
S&P+ 110.1 (35th) 108.35 (39th)
Success Rate 45.3 (46th) 39.7 (52nd)
ISO PPP 1.12 (6th) .82 (59th)
Rushing SA&P .432 (112th) .449 (43rd)
Passing S&P .672 (8th) .511 (57th)
Standard Downs S&P .589 (31st) .506 (56th)
Passing Downs S&P .610 (9th) .434 (49th)

With each and every team the Bearcats play for the remainder of 2014 the first thing that I will always try to find out is how they play against the pass. The Bearcats are a one dimensional team in 2014. Whatever Tommy Tuberville says in public (or Eddie Gran in private) about this offense needing to run the ball to have success it is nothing more than a sideshow. This is one of the most deadly and explosive passing attacks in the country. The Bearcats frequent and fruitless attempts to dabble with being a running team are really hurting the bottom line. With a passing offense this good, this consistent and this explosive the Bearcats should have an elite offense, but they don't. Right now the offense is merely very good because they pick the wrong spots to try and run the football.

In that regard the Bearcats were slightly better are running the football against Ohio State than they were in either the Miami or Toledo games. If you remove the sack and subsequent fumble by Joey Bosa on Gunner Kiel where the Bearcats were charged with -25 yards rushing on that one play because it wasn't ever intended to be a run. Take that play out and the Bearcats rushed 18 times for 95 yards. That's not great , but I will take 5.2 yards per called run.  Doubly so when you remember that UC gained just 3.9 yards per called run against Miami.

The Bearcats drive for more efficiency in the running game is crucial in this particular stretch of the schedule. Ohio State, Memphis and Miami are the three best defenses* the Bearcats will play according to the advanced numbers. Memphis doesn't have that one unit that is just going to dominate proceedings in the way the OSU defensive line or the Miami secondary will, they are just solid from top to bottom.

* Give or take a bowl game

The Tigers are a little banged up right now with Martin Ifedi missing the last three games, but they do have some very gifted defenders like Bobby McCain and Tank Jakes. There is a chance that Ifedi could be back for this game, which would obviously be a major boon for a Memphis pass rush which will need all hands on deck against the Bearcats.

Cincinnati Defense Memphis Offense
S&P+ 94.5 (94th) 102.0 (61st)
Success Rate 52.0 (124th) 38.1 (103rd)
ISO PPP .79 (42nd) .84 (70th)
Rushing S&P .570 (120th) .487 (70th)
Passing S&P .588 (115th) .459 (108th)
Standard Downs S&P .569 (106th) .528 (75th)
Passing Downs S&P .594 (124th) .377 (117th)

This is going to be a battle between a tire fire and a dumpster fire. One of the enduring mysteries of this season for me is going to be how this Memphis offense managed to score 35 points on the road at UCLA and then come back three weeks later and score three whole points against Ole Miss. I know that Ole Miss is amazing on defense, but UCLA is pretty good in their own right.

For the season the numbers would suggest that the offense is a year away from finding true competence. I like a lot of the pieces they have on offense. I think that Paxton Lynch is their quarterback for the future. Though Dorland Dorceus is out for the rest of the year they have some good backs with Brandon Hayes and freshman Jarvis Cooper. The problem is that they have a real shortage of weapons on the perimeter. When they get in obvious passing situations they struggle. All that really means that they will have an awesome week against the Bearcats and go right back to struggling.

It really doesn't matter who the Bearcats are playing because the UC defense has an inflationary effect on everyone. I have already put a 1,000 words up on the subject this week, feel free to read them here. This game will be a shootout because every game from here on out is going to be a shootout until proven otherwise.