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Watching Film: Memphis

Will the Bulls leave Bluff City singing the Blues?

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

We all anticipated a roller coaster type season, full of ups and downs. Unfortunately, this season has been like Splash Mountain. We meandered through the darkness not sure if there would be a season. There were some minor ups and downs, but we finally made it to the first game. We came out of the darkness and saw the light…and it’s been a straight drop ever since.

Rocky is straight up not having a good time

After a throttling at the hands of Tulsa and a well-timed open week, USF is back in action against Memphis. After what has transpired this season, it is quite appropriate that the Bulls would be playing in the “Home of the Blues”.

The Tigers are coming off a tough loss against a very good Cincinnati team. They will be looking to rebound with an emphatic win. The Bulls are hoping to use the opens week as a springboard into a strong finish. Let’s look at the numbers and see how these teams stack up.

The Numbers

Stats give a pretty good overview of each team. Memphis has a great offense and a poor defense. USF is pretty poor all around. Memphis has a huge edge in yards per play (YPP) on offense. The Bulls actually have a slight edge in defensive YPP.

The trend continues in the available yard percentages. This stat shows what percentage of available yards you gain or allow. If you were at 100%, that would mean you score a touchdown every drive. Offensively you want to be at 100% and defensively you want to be at 0%. The Memphis offense is 23rd nationally gaining, on average, 55.8% of available yards each drive. The USF offense is over 20 percentage points worse, ranking 97th in the country. Both defenses rank poorly, but the Memphis defense is slightly better.

USF is terrible on third down on both sides of the ball. Memphis is above average offensively and below average defensively, in terms of third down conversions.

The USF defense has not allowed nearly as many explosive plays per game as the Memphis defense, but the Tigers offense is much more explosive than the Bulls. Memphis also has the advantage in turnover margin and team talent.

The stats say that Memphis has great offense and a poor defense, but is that what the film says? Let’s take a look below and find out.

Memphis Offense

The Memphis offense is once again the strength of their team. The Tigers are also, once again, led by quarterback Brady White (3). White, who is on the verge or breaking Tommy Callahan’s record for years in college without a doctorate, leads an explosive offense with playmakers at every skill position. The Tigers play a ton of 11 (1 back 1 tight end) personnel and have dynamic players at each position. Wide receivers Calvin Austin (4), Tahj Washington (18) and Javon Ivory (13) all average over 17 yards a reception. Tight end Sean Dykes (5) is second on the team in receptions and is a matchup nightmare. Let’s look and see how the Tigers will deploy all these weapons.

The Memphis offense is very good. In fact, it is quite a bit better on paper than both the East Carolina and Tulsa offenses that put up 40+ on USF. The Bulls will need to create some turnovers and get some help from their offense to hold down the Tigers.

Memphis Defense

By the numbers, the Memphis defense is not great. They don’t look a lot better on tape. They seem to run a lot of odd front and aren’t afraid to bring pressure. Playing aggressive can backfire against good offenses (UCF’s 798 yards say Hi), but it can snuff out bad offenses. USF shades much more to the bad side of the spectrum. Let’s take a closer look at how Memphis will try to stop the Bulls.

The Memphis defense has some talent remaining from last year. They have been shredded by some good offenses, but lucky for them they aren’t playing one this week. The Tigers have actually been about average against the run this season. They really struggle defending the pass. They rank 94th nationally, giving up nine yards a pass attempt. Unfortunately for USF, the Bulls only average 5.6 yards a pass. That figure ranks 103rd nationally. Something has gotta give here.


This is another tough game for first-year head coach Jeff Scott. Even though you are coming off a bye, you will be playing a highly motivated Memphis team in their stadium. While Memphis lost some of their top end talent to opt outs, they are still a very good AAC team.

The Bulls will need to win the turnover battle decisively and have some long, sustained scoring drives to win this game. The Bulls will not win this game if they have close to the same amount of plays as Memphis. USF needs to steal a few possessions. They need to cause turnovers or maybe pull out another surprise onside kick.

Aggressiveness can get you blown out, but the Bulls will not win a straight up contest. They will need to take chances. Go for it on fourth down, try an onside kick, fake some punts. Let it all hang out. And if you get blown out? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time this season.