North Texas took a good Tulane team to the wire last weekend but ultimately fell a touchdown short, dropping them to a game below .500. Back at home this weekend, the Mean Green are set to host the 5-2 Memphis Tigers, who sit in 4th place in the AAC standings. Despite being several games behind Memphis in those standings, I still think the Mean Green are an excellent underdog pick this weekend.
Making the switch to Chandler Rogers at quarterback was the smartest move head coach Eric Morris could have made for the North Texas offense. Since taking over as the starter, the ULM transfer has thrown for 14 touchdowns, and just in the last two games alone, he has thrown for 650 yards. With his play, Rogers has the Mean Green offense ranked 25th in points (32.8) and 13th in yards (460.2) per game following their 35-28 loss to Tulane.
Unfortunately for Rogers and his head coach, the quarterback can’t play defense, which has been the weakest aspect of this North Texas team. After allowing 439 yards to Tulane last weekend, the Mean Green are 123rd in yards allowed per game and rank 130th in defensive success rate.
If an offense that can run the ball is lining up against North Texas, there is a good chance that offense will have a big day. By allowing an average of 269.5 rushing yards per game, UNT is ranked 133rd in that statistical category, and since teams know they can run on them, the Mean Green have also seen an average of 47.3 rushing attempts per game.
The Mean Green’s opponent this weekend, the Memphis Tigers, are not a team that is necessarily built to beat teams on the ground, as they prefer to throw the ball. With a pass play percentage of 52.97%, the Tigers rely heavily on quarterback Seth Henigen, who enters this matchup with a 15:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
With Henigen leading the charge, the Tigers rank 31st in offensive success rate, but the difference in their passing and run game can be seen through their EPA. Memphis ranks 39th in EPA on pass plays, while they rank 75th in EPA on rush plays.
Playing in their fourth home game this season, North Texas enters this matchup as (+7.5) point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Getting the hook here was important since Memphis is currently 2-4-1 ATS this season, and I don’t think they are a team that is built to exploit the weaknesses of North Texas.
Memphis is just bad enough defensively that they could struggle to put a team led by Chandler Rogers away. With a defensive EPA that ranks 113th on run plays and 76th on pass plays, Rogers will have two ways to attack the Tigers' defense. Memphis is already allowing 176.7 rushing yards per game, and when these teams met last year, North Texas threw for 371 yards on the Tigers.
One of the biggest reasons the Mean Green ended up losing by ten last year was due to three turnovers, but Rogers enters this matchup with just one interception. At the same time, Henigen has seven interceptions this year, and throwing another one this weekend could keep the Mean Green in this game. If Memphis continues to stay pass-heavy this week, North Texas can stick around in a shootout, especially with Memphis ranked 89th in defensive EPA.
North Texas Mean Green (+7.5)