Game Week: Memphis Statistical Analysis

SEP 5 -- The statistics indicate that the Tigers should struggle offensively on Saturday, but that their defense is solid...

We’re not even going to try to parse through any of the stats from the Tigers’ blowout of Austin Peay, whose greatest football accomplishment remains that the jovial offensive lineman from Remember the Titans went there. Instead, here is an overview of the Tigers’ stats from the 2013 season:

As always, for a quick refresher on the stats we’re using, please consult the first article. In addition to these stats, we have a few more numbers that help give a more complete analysis of the Memphis football team.

First, we have Points per Trip inside the 40, which is a pretty solid measure of how good a team is at putting points on the board when it has an opportunity to do so. The Memphis offense averaged 3.7 points per trip, good for 106th in the country, while the defense allowed an impressive 3.7 points per trip, 12th in the country.

Next, we have Success Rate, which is a measure of efficiency. Basically, it measures the offense’s ability to stay on schedule by first getting in 2nd and 3rd and short then converting to keep the drive alive. The offense was successful on 38.2% of their plays, 104th in the country, while the defense allowed a success rate of 40.5%, 42nd in the country.

Finally, we have Points per Play, which is not actually points per play, but is in fact an explosiveness measure taken using the expected number of points for a given offense from each yard line. For this statistic, the Memphis offense was 106th in the country, while the defense was 37th.

What we have here is a weak offense combined with a pretty darn solid defense.

The offensive numbers are really bad, with none of the stats we’re following cracking even the top 100. Even with the improvement that seems to be going on across the Memphis program, we only expect that to take the offense from “UCLA vs. Virginia awful” to “bad.” They were terrible at staying on schedule, terrible at breaking big plays, and terrible at taking advantage of scoring opportunities. Expect another big game for the UCLA defense, which should be highly ranked as we exit the “super small sample size” portion of the season.

The Memphis defense, which returns nine starters, is another story. The stats we’re tracking have them anywhere from solidly middle-of-the-road to downright good, and those defensive numbers are actually probably a little worse than they might have been with any sort of help from the offense. The defense was elite at stiffening up as the opponent approached scoring position, and respectable at limiting the opponent’s efficiency and explosiveness. A couple of bonus stats: the Tigers tied with Alabama for 14th in the country in yards allowed per rushing attempt (3.32), but were only 57th in yards allowed per pass attempt (7.0). If there is one place to attack this defense, it is through the air. They don’t have the five star pedigree of the Virginia defense, but the Memphis defense was quite impressive for a non-Power 5 team. Make no mistake: this is going to be a test for Noel Mazzone, Brett Hundley, and the rest of the UCLA offense. Despite a poor W-L record in 2013, Memphis almost beat UCF (who beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl) and Louisville. At first glance it looks like an easy win, but we do expect Memphis to put up a fair amount of resistance on Saturday, especially against the suddenly maligned Bruin offense. A 40 plus point explosion would signal a big time turnaround by the offense, but we wouldn’t bet on it, as the Tigers only gave up over 40 points twice all year. On the other hand, the Bruin defense, if it wants to be among the best in the country this year, needs to absolutely dominate this weak Memphis offense.

It will have been 287 days between the final UCLA home game and Saturday’s home opener. We can’t wait. See you under the lights at the Rose Bowl!

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