Breaking Down the 5-1 Memphis Tigers

The Tigers are a different animal as the Wave heads to Memphis as an underdog

By FTW Staffer Janny Meza. He has covered Tulane as credentialed media for three seasons, and you can find him on Twitter.

Tulane’s battle with the [REDACTED] Huskies was not as close as Vegas anticipated. The 34.5-point favorite Green Wave beat the spread for a fifth time this season, winning 49-7 in a dominant performance over the Huskies.

Simply put, the Wave took an early lead on a 57 yard touchdown run by Corey Dauphine and never looked back. To be honest, there aren’t many interesting things to say about this considering the massive gap in quality between the two teams. However, here are a few notes I took from the game: 

  • There was a lot more balance between running and passing by OC Will Hall than I expected. 34 pass plays and 46 rushing plays were called this week as opposed to 21 passing plays and 53 rushing plays last week vs Army.  

  • The Wave outgained the Huskies 634 to 234…a 400 yard difference. I don’t care who you’re playing, that’s ridiculously impressive against any opponent.  

  • Justin McMillan had a very impressive back shoulder throw to Darnell Mooney in the end zone to take a 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter. Throws like this are what the Wave will need if they want to see this winning streak continue. 

  • No sacks given up by the offensive line.  

An important fact to keep in mind is that there are no more “gimme” games left on the schedule for Tulane. Even Tulsa is capable of giving teams headaches, as they showed by taking then-#24 SMU into overtime. The combined record for Tulane’s remaining 6 opponents is 26-9 and one of them, SMU, is sitting at #19 in the country. Temple and Memphis are both in the receiving votes category along with the Wave. 

#RankTulane Watch

The Green Wave once again advanced a few spots in the five rankings that we track. A win this week vs Memphis should seal a spot in the AP Top 25 and, most likely, in the Coaches’ Poll as well.  

This is no doubt the biggest of the game of the season to date for the Green Wave. A win against Memphis would expedite Tulane’s path to the AAC West title, putting us on a collision course with #19 SMU on the last week of the season. It is Memphis’s biggest game of the season too. A loss in this game puts the Tigers at 1-2 in AAC play and pretty much kills their chances at “walking the West”, as many experts thought they would this year. This is a must-win for both teams. Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses on both sides to anticipate what we may see in Memphis this Saturday.  

Memphis Offense: By the Numbers

  • The Tigers offense under QB Brady White has been prolific this season, averaging 37.8 PPG (20th in FBS) and 466.2 YPG (27th in FBS). Even last week, in which he did not play his best game against Temple, White still managed to complete 28 passes for 363 yards and a TD. 

  • The key man in this Tigers offense is RB Kenneth Gainwell. He torched the Owls last week in both running and catching the ball, finishing the game with an astounding 204 all-purpose yards, a TD, and an average of over 7.5 yards per touch. Gainwell was the spark that almost brought the Tigers all the way back from a 16-0 deficit.  

  • Damonte Coxie has been the Tigers’ go-to receiver this season, leading the team with 29 receptions and 393 receiving yards, but their home-run hitter is Antonio Gibson. He only has 8 catches on the season but leads Memphis in receiving touchdowns with 4, three of them off of 50+ yard catches.  

  • An early season injury to standout running back Patrick Taylor Jr. has allowed for Kenneth Gainwell to blossom, but his return would give the Tigers arguably the best RB duo in the American. Against Temple, it was reported (per Evan Barnes, Memphis Commercial Appeal) that he was closer to “doubtful” than “questionable”. His status for Tulane is still up in the air. 

Memphis Defense: By the Numbers

  • The Memphis defense is a decent unit if you look at their statistics, but the albatross on their record is their run defense. They rank 93rd in the country in run defense, and the one game they’ve played opposition with an elite ground game (Navy), they gave up 293 rushing yards. One thing to keep in mind is that Memphis has played three top 30 rushing offenses (Navy, UL-Monroe, and Ole Miss) so far, so these numbers are a little skewed. However, the Wave are the 4th best rushing attack in the nation, so I expect us to find similar success against the Tigers run defense.  

  • The passing defense is the stronger half of the Tigers defense, but I still expect there to be space in the secondary created by Memphis putting extra bodies in the box against the run.  

Keys for the Wave:

  • A good start is a must for the Wave. Memphis has a habit this season of going down early, they were down 16-0 last week vs Temple and went 20-7 down against Navy three weeks ago.  

  • Success in the run game, which should make Memphis dedicate its scheme to stopping, will open up space behind the linebackers and safeties for the Wave.  

  • Justin McMillan will need to be consistent throwing the ball to establish himself as a threat. If he can throw the ball as well as he did against Army and UConn, I have no doubt that this offense will up 30+ points.  

  • Keeping calm if the Tigers find some success on offense. They will manage to score, that is a fact that must be accepted, but knowing to bend and not break on the defensive side of the ball is crucial for Tulane.  

  • Getting consistent pressure on Brady White will the biggest factor on defense. Patrick Johnson, Cam Sample, and Jeffrey Johnson (who will likely make his return this week). creating havoc in the backfield will ease the tough task of taming the Tigers’ passing game.  

Final Predictions:

Janny: Tulane 35 - Memphis 27

JP: Tulane 38 - Memphis 35

Ready for more Tulane coverage? JP interviewed the Memphis beat writer this week on FTWCast, and you can listen here or on your favorite podcast player.

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