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Memphis Boasts One of Country’s Best Offenses

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The Tigers have a balanced, electric offensive attack, led by the duo of RB Darrell Henderson and QB Brady White.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Memphis The Commercial Appeal-USA TODAY

Well, at least Missouri got No. 1 Alabama — the nation’s best offense — out of the way already. The Tigers’ upcoming matchup with Memphis is no cake walk, though, as they have one of the most potent offenses in the country.

Memphis (4-3) averages 539 total yards (7th in FBS) and scores 43.9 points per contest (9th in FBS) through its first seven games. As is the case with most offenses this dominant, they’re a two-dimensional squad that boasts elite passing and running games.

When one thinks of what team the country’s leading rusher goes to school, a good bet is he plays for someone like Alabama, Stanford, Georgia, or any other Power Five school, really. Through the first seven weeks of the 2018 season, Memphis’ Darrell Henderson is college football’s leading rusher — and it’s not even that close.

The junior has put up absolutely gaudy numbers thus far. He’s rushed 110 times for 1,133 yards (10.3 ypc) and 13 touchdowns (2nd in FBS). Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor sits second in the nation in rushing yards, 183 yards behind Henderson. Memphis’ star tailback has busted open a run of at least 43 in six of seven games, and put up a gain of at least 61 yards in five separate games (one was a touchdown reception in Week One).

Henderson’s game resonates shades of Saquon Barkley’s — strong vision, powerful, quick lateral cuts, and elite acceleration to his top speed. It’s hard to name a flaw in the freight-train-looking back, and he’s been a handful for opposing defenses all year.

Aside from two games against Mercer and Tulane where Henderson carried the ball a combined 16 times, he’s rushed for 1,006 yards on 94 carries (10.7 ypc, 201.2 ypg) and 11 scores.

Henderson has made his presence felt through the air as well, reeling in 11 catches for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The guy throwing the ball to Henderson and the other Memphis receivers isn’t too shabby, himself. Junior Brady White was in a quarterback competition with sophomore David Moore this offseason, and head coach Mike Norvell decided White was his guy. It was somewhat of a controversial decision, as Moore was younger and had some serious upside as a dual-threat quarterback.

It looks like Norvell knew what he was doing.

White is one of the most efficient passers in the country, ranking sixth in passing efficiency (173.1) and 19th in completion percentage (67.6). To add to that, he’s tossed 15 touchdowns (T-16 in FBS) while throwing just one interception. Only two quarterbacks have more touchdowns with as many or less interceptions — Alabama’s Heisman-favorite Tua Tagovailoa (21 TD, 0 INT) and North Texas’ Mason Fine (16 TD, 1 INT).

White has eclipsed 73 percent passing four times this season, averaging just over 25 pass attempts in those games. Tagovailoa has accomplished the feat the same amount of times.

Luckily for the Missouri defense, White isn’t the type of quarterback to take the top off a defense. He completes a good chunk of his passes for medium distance, but is one of the elite players at doing so efficiently. A weak Missouri secondary limited Tagovailoa to a 54.5 percent clip prior to leaving the contest — the gunslinger’s lowest completion percentage of the season by nearly 14 percent.

That bodes well for Missouri, but the struggled mightily against Jalen Hurts last week, as it has throughout the season.

Terry Beckner Jr., Terez Hall and the rest of the Missouri front seven will have to clog up the holes and slow down Henderson, forcing White to beat them. It’s a tall task, but the nation’s 25th-best rushing defense is surely up to the task.