The Memphis Tigers will take a three-game winning streak on the road this weekend to take on Biff Poggi’s Charlotte 49ers. Winning has not come easy for the 49ers, and after securing an overtime win last weekend, they will immediately be challenged by a Memphis team that is 7-2 overall. With an offense that struggles to score consistently, I don’t think the 49ers will be able to keep pace with the Tigers, which is why I like Memphis as road favorites.
When your defense allows an average of 29.6 points per game, you better hope your offense can score quickly. That’s been the story of the Memphis Tigers season. After allowing 50 points last weekend in a 59-50 win over USF, the Tigers are now 95th in the country in defensive EPA but 11th in average points per game.
Quarterback Seth Henigen has put the team on his back most weeks, throwing for 2,535 yards and 20 touchdowns, helping the Tigers rank 29th in offensive success rate on pass plays. The Tigers' offense is primarily based on attacking opponents through the air, as they average 35 pass attempts per game and 8.2 yards per pass.
While Henigen has been impressive this season, what makes the Tigers exceptionally dangerous is their solid running back, Blake Watson, who forces defenses to worry about both aspects of their offense. Watson is up to ten rushing touchdowns this season, and the backfield duo of him and Henigen could be in for another big week since they’ll line up against a Charlotte defense that is 94th in EPA.
Charlotte has not shown the ability that Memphis has when it comes to offsetting their defensive issues. The 49ers enter this matchup ranked 72nd in average points allowed per game and 127th in average points scored per game. Quarterback Trexler Ivey led the team to a win last weekend, but overall, he has a 56.2% completion percentage and a 4:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Between inconsistent quarterback play and a lack of running game, Charlotte is ranked 128th in offensive success rate. The 49ers are in the top 50 in rushing attempts per game, but even with that, they are still 102nd in yards per rush and 82nd in rush yards per game.
As Memphis looks for their 4th straight win, they sit as (-9.5) point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Aside from their week two win over Arkansas State, the Tigers have not since had a game in which they’ve dominated on both sides of the ball, but I think they can do it this weekend.
The 49ers are 96th in defensive success rate on pass plays, so Seth Henigen is likely looking at another big game through the air. Memphis has the 39th-best EPA on pass plays, and with their explosiveness, they should be able to move the ball downfield quickly on a Charlotte defense that is 88th in opponent 3rd down conversion percentage (41.4%) and yards allowed per play (5.8).
In order to keep pace with Henigen and Blake Watson, the 49ers would need to consistently sustain scoring drives, which they have not proven they can do this season. Not only is Charlotte converting 22.8% of their third downs, but they rank 110th or worse in EPA on pass and rush plays, so it’s hard to believe they’ll be able to take advantage of the Tigers' defense enough to stay in the game.
Memphis Tigers (-9.5)(-110)