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Cincinnati Bearcats At Memphis; Keys To The Game

Memphis comes into tonights contest with a 1-5 record, but they are better than the record indicates. They have a nasty, play making front seven that will make life difficult in the run game and an active secondary. Given the Bearcats struggles on the road this season a win is not a foregone conclusion. Here are the things the Bearcats have to do in order to come out of the Liberty Bowl with bowl eligibility in hand.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Make Plays In The Vertical Passing Game

Memphis comes into tonights contest boasting the 23rd ranked pass efficiency defense, but the Tigers are not a perpetually air tight secondary. SMU gashed the Tigers for 5 passes of 30 yards or more, and all but one came on down field throws. The Bearcats receivers won't spend a ton of time running free behind the defense, but on the occasions that they are those guys have to make plays. Receiver inconsistency cropped up in a major way on the Bearcats last road outing, those issues recurring would be a big blow to the offense. A big game from Chris Moore and/or Mekale McKay is a must.

Keep a Clean Pocket

The Bearcats offensive line has performed great this year outside of a pretty wonky six quarter stretch against Miami and South Florida. The Tigers scheme is designed to confuse the assignments of the big guys to spring free rushers. They go about that with their alignment and the games (i.e. stunts) they run.

In a given drive Memphis will flip from a 4-3 to a 3-4 to a chaos front where there is no defensive linemen in a three point stance. Martin Ifedi is the ringleader of that front, and he lines up at every spot on the line. Austen Bujnoch is slated to return to action tonight after missing the UConn game with his recurring foot issue. That should help steady the front, but they have a lot to be concerned with.

Run Enough

It would be foolish to try to win this game by running down hill at the Tigers generally excellent front seven. With the Bearcats talent at the receiver spots going back to the heavy looks won't cut it. But the Bearcats have to run when they have the numbers. A hundred yard game from Ralph David Abernathy IV, Hosey Williams or Tion Green is probably not happening, but those three should shoot for 150 yards as a unit. That will be enough to keep Memphis in base or nickel and out of their dime package.

Keep The Tigers Off Schedule

When Memphis can stay ahead of the chains and grind out 4 and 5 yards a pop they are OK. But they get killed anytime they get off schedule because of splash plays from the defense or mistakes on their own end. They simply don't have the difference makers outside or at quarterback to make up for those mistakes. UC decimated UConn generating  8 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. A similar performance would take the threat right out of the Memphis offense. They simply aren't built to make up for those negative plays.

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