Among the weekend's hidden gems in college football is a matchup between Memphis and UCLA at Liberty Bowl Stadium. It's the Pac-12 versus the American Athletic Conference. Jim Mora vs. Mike Norvell. Josh Rosen vs. Riley Ferguson.
The Bruins are favored by three on the road. Here's how Memphis wins the game.
[divider]MEMPHIS vs. UCLA: Game Time, Odds, Streaming
CHURCHILL: 5 Things to Know About Memphis Football
STATS COMPARISON: Memphis vs. UCLA
PLAYER COMPARISON: Anthony Miller vs. Caleb Wilson
MEMPHIS ALUMNI: Former Tigers Make $28.5 million Per Year in NFL[divider]
Memphis averaged nearly 39 points a game last season and returned a big chunk of their offense, including their starting quarterback and No. 1 receiving threat. Smart money is on this being a relatively high-scoring affair, with both offenses having their way at times.
"Norvell likes to pass the ball around, and he has the weapons to do so. You will see primarily spread from the Tigers, but what we found out in week 1 is they have a run game that will be tough to stop.
"One thing that everyone seems to note is UCLA's struggles with stopping the run so far, and Memphis got a jump start on the run game against UL-Monroe thanks to rainy conditions. Bruins fans should be familiar with Norvell's schemes from when he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State.
"It's the three-headed monster in the backfield with Doroland Dorceus, Patrick Taylor Jr. and Darrell Henderson."
The Tigers' running game was somewhat secondary a year ago — 4.3 yards per carry and 159 yards per game. Week 1 produced over 300 yards on the ground — albeit versus an overmatched UL-Monroe defense — suggesting the right game plan could result in another big performance from the rushing attack.
Defensively, Broback notes "Alabama transfer Jonathan Cook, who led the team in tackles last season," is a key factor, as is "Tony Pollard on special teams — he also plays receiver and will be a threat."
The Bruins' struggles on the defensive side are real and aren't limited to the first couple of games in 2017 where they allowed 44 points and 471 yards to Texas A&M and 515 yards to Hawaii. Of those 986 yards of offense allowed, 663 came on the ground, including 281 to the Rainbows, an offense notorious for airing it out on a weekly basis.
The Tigers' are well-equipped to throw the ball around the yard 50 times with Anthony Miller a star at wide receiver, but the fact they're also ready to hand the ball off to multiple backs and chew yards and clock bodes well for their chances versus a porous Bruins defense yielding 6.31 yards per carry.
Mora's best defenders are in the secondary and on the edge of the front seven, suggesting the middle of the line is vulnerable, particularly versus the run.
As familiar as UCLA's staff may be with Norvell's offense, Norvell is also familiar with what the Bruins like to do defensively. Memphis may be a bit undersized and out-athleted at certain spots on the field, but the program has competed with such programs in the past, including against Ole Miss and Houston each of the last two years.
The Tigers may need to better the Bruins in a shootout, but if they're able to control the time of possession they have a chance to keep Rosen and the Bruins' high-powered offense off the field enough to pull off what amounts to a mild upset.
Joey Broback also co-hosts the Underdog Dynasty Pawdcast with Joe Serpico.