Tennessee Vols Vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Game Preview And Stat Comparison

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts, links to SB Nation game pages, and statistical comparisons.

CAVEATS: You know the drill. Also, this: all of the following information is gleaned exclusively from the NCAA statistics and does not account for things like injuries, shared playing time, and other stuff difficult to see in the stats from a bird's eye view. As always, this is a long post, so I've put the conclusions and predictions before and after the meat. You're not seeing double.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Tennessee got beat by a Florida team that Alabama pretty much dominated. They scored three TDs and a field goal on their first four drives and were smoke monsters in the red zone on defense.
  • Merely very good on offense, the Tide excels in almost every defensive stat category except sacks and tackles for loss. But they haven't played against UT's offensive line yet. Oh, and they're strong on punt and kickoff returns, too, so yay for that again.
  • If there's any hope for the Vols, it will likely be because of turnovers -- which have so far been hopelessly devoted to Alabama, but which can also be quite fickle -- and because Tennessee's had a week to tweak and rest while Alabama will be playing its 8th consecutive game.

Predictions

  • Alabama 31, Tennessee 13.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Alabama Logo
San Jose St. Spartans 9/4/10 win 48 - 3 coverage
Penn St. Nittany Lions 9/11/10 win 24 - 3 coverage
@ Duke Blue Devils 9/18/10 win 62 - 13 coverage
@ Arkansas Razorbacks 9/25/10 win 24 - 20 coverage
Florida Gators 10/2/10 win 31 - 6 coverage
@ South Carolina Gamecocks 10/9/10 loss 21 - 35 coverage
Mississippi Rebels 10/16/10 win 23 - 10 coverage

 

I'm not going to put seven drive charts here, but you can watch/generate your own at this page. One, though, is particularly pertinent because it can be compared to our own game against the same opponent. Here's what Florida did to Tennessee:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

And here's what Alabama did to Florida:

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Charts brought to you by Gameday Depot.

On offense against Florida, UT spent most of its time on the wrong side of the field, gave the ball away three times, but did manage to get two TD drives. Alabama? Three TDs and a field goal on its first four drives and zero turnovers. On defense against Florida, the Vols allowed four TDs, mostly on short drives thanks to field position, and benefited from two fumbles. The Crimson Tide D completely bowed up in the red zone, forcing two red zone turnovers (to go with two others) and otherwise holding the Gators to two field goals. Florida not getting a TD in a game must feel like suffocating to Gator fans.

National Unit Rankings

Now on to the national rankings.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 37 183.57 Air Force 346.86 5 Auburn 283.71
Passing Offense 46 243.57 Hawaii 402.43 5 Arkansas 366.33
Total Offense 32 427.14 Oregon 567.00 4 Auburn 481.14
Scoring Offense 31 33.29 Oregon 54.33 3 Auburn 40.71
Passing Efficiency 6 167.99 Boise St. 188.11 2 Auburn 178.07
Sacks Allowed 105 3.00 Boise St. .17 11 Kentucky .86

 

Offensive observations. Apart from passing efficiency, Alabama's offensive stats aren't exactly what you'd expect from a team still threatening to repeat as national champion. They're basically leading the second fourth of teams nationally, and they're actually bad at allowing sacks.

 

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 19 106.86 Boise St. 59.33 5 LSU 83.57
Pass Efficiency Defense 5 97.89 Nebraska 80.41 1 Alabama 97.89
Total Defense 11 288.00 Boise St. 210.17 2 LSU 242.14
Scoring Defense 5 12.86 TCU 9.29 1 Alabama 12.86
Pass Defense 25 181.14 Nebraska 117.00 4 LSU 158.57
Sacks 104 1.14 Florida St. 4.29 12 South Carolina 3.67
Tackles For Loss 96 4.57 Miami (FL) 9.50 12 Vanderbilt 7.50

 

Defensive observations. Of course, we and our computer know that defense wins championships, and the Tide is still strong on that side of the ball. Fifth in both pass efficiency and scoring defense and in the top 20 in both rushing and total defense. Again, though, they're actually not good right along the line, ranking very low in their ability to generate problems for the offense behind the line of scrimmage.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Net Punting 66 36.32 Pittsburgh 44.83 8 Florida 44.55
Punt Returns 12 14.50 Maryland 24.61 3 Mississippi 21.40
Kickoff Returns 11 26.58 Utah 29.21 2 Florida 26.68
Turnover Margin 10 1.00 Army 1.57 1 Alabama 1.00

 

Special teams and turnovers observations. Hmm. Maybe the reason Tennessee's allowed so many punt and kickoff returns for TDs over the past several years is because every team we play has good punt and kick returners. Alabama's no exception, ranking just outside of the top 10 in both categories. The turnover margin ranking is just unfair on top of everything else, but does provide a slight glimmer of hope. If any of that is luck, and if the luck switches jerseys, well, that could be good news.

Stastical Comparison

Here's how the teams looked when the RTT BlogPoll Computery Thing chewed them up and spit them out.

R Team WL SOS PED RD 3DO TD PEO OP
PG
TO 3DD BP
9 Alabama Logo 11 46 5 19 33 11 6 5 32 18 108.63
90 Tennessee Logo 83 21 43 67 114 78 68 75 97 57 -46.62

 

Yay for having a harder schedule! Or not!

Players to watch for

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Trent Richardson 63 69.57
Eddie Lacy 29.14
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Greg McElroy 6 168.97
Total Offense Greg McElroy 59 217.57
Trent Richardson 69.57
Receptions Per Game Julio Jones T-61 4.71
Receiving Yards Per Game Julio Jones 71 64.00
Darius Hanks 41.29
Scoring Trent Richardson 6.00
Jeremy Shelley 5.86
DEFENSE
Interceptions Robert Lester T-9 .57
Dre Kirkpatrick T-35 .43
Will Lowery .29
Mark Barron .29
Nico Johnson .17
Sacks
Tackles Mark Barron 6.71
Tackles For Loss Courtney Upshaw .93
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game)
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Marquis Maze 5 18.70
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Trent Richardson 21 27.80
Field Goals Cade Foster T-70 .86
Jeremy Shelley T-70 .86
All-Purpose Runners Trent Richardson 3 183.14
Julio Jones 78.14


Observations

Offense.

Quarterback. Hey, did you know that Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy hasn't ever lost a game EVER NOT EVEN TIC TAC TOE EVEREVER? Until two weeks ago, which we'll just add as a footnote to the original statement because doing otherwise would require actually deleting old notes chiseled onto stone tablets and that would take effort, man. Oh, and hey, in not unrelated news, McElroy is an incredibly efficient passer.

Receivers. Julio Jones is, of course, McElroy's go-to guy, but he's not exactly setting the world on fire, averaging only 4.71 catches and 64 yards per game. He played against Ole Miss last week despite having surgery on his hand, but aggravated the thing early and didn't return. Nick Saban said he could have played in the second half, but didn't, so we should expect to see him Saturday. How effective he'll be, we can't know. The No. 2 receiver appears to be Darius Hanks.

Running backs. You'd expect the returning Heisman Trophy winner to show up on that chart above, but Mark Ingram is nowhere to be found. And it's not like he hasn't played enough games. After sitting out the first two, he's played in the last five. That's the good news. The bad news is that Trent Richardson may be even better, and they're both playing well. Richardson is averaging only 70 yards per game, though.

Defense. Watch out for sophomore DB Robert Lester, who's tied for 9th nationally in interceptions with an average of .57 per game. Fellow sophomore Dre Kirkpatrick isn't that far behind him -- tied for 35th with an average of .43. Add those up, and you get a nice even 1.0 interceptions per game from the twoathem. And then there's Will Lowery, Mark Barron, and Nico Johnson, who've all written their names in the interception lights as well.

Notice that Sacks category. No names. Matt Simms approves. Courtney Upshaw looks to be the only guy who threatens opponents' backfields, although it should be noted that they haven't played our offensive line yet.

DB Mark Barron is the Tide's best tackler, but he's unranked nationally and is averaging only 6.71 tackles per game.

Special teams. Eric Berry should have hit Marquis Maze harder, as he's returned from orbit to become the nation's 5th-best punt returner. Do not kick to this man, or, in the alternative, pretend he's that dude from LSU who was Awesome But Shut Down by the Vols. Trent Richardson returns kickoffs, which is not fair.

Head to Head Comparisons

How'd we do with the head-to-head comparisons during Georgia week? Mostly FAIL.

  Prediction Result Grade
UT rush 120 9 EPIC FAIL (in a very bad way)
UT pass 180 260 FAIL (but in a good way!)
Georgia rush 140 136 WIN
Georgia pass 200 266 EH
UT score 21 14 OPTIMISM FAIL
Georgia score 24 41 EPIC FAIL

 

So let's see if we can be any more accurate this week:

  Tennessee Logo Alabama Logo
Best Comparable(s)
Result Against Best Comparable
Prediction
UT rush v. Alabama rush defense 115
(#94)
107
(#19)
Georgia
(103)
(#16)
9 50
UT pass v. Alabama pass defense 207
(#71)
181
(#25)

Georgia
(187)
(#30)

260 240
Alabama rush v. UT rush defense 154
(#67)
184
(#37)
UAB
(179)
(#38)
115 120
Alabama pass v. UT pass defense 228
(#81)
244
(#46)
UAB
(244)
(T-#44)
429 290
UT scoring offense v. Alabama scoring defense 23
(#84)
13
(#5)
LSU
(14)
(#11)
14 13
Alabama scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 28
(#75)
33
(#31)
Georgia
(30)
(#51)
41 31

 

As always, these are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations. The general analytical framework is this: We are averaging X in a certain category. The opponent averages Y against that, which is most closely comparable to some identified previous opponent, against whom we did Z. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. The less data you have, the more sketchy the guess, and the guesses range from ALL CAPS SKETCHY WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS at the beginning of the season to merely lower case sketchy for the last game.

This week's example: Tennessee's averaging 115 yards on the ground. Alabama gives up an average of 107 rushing yards. So we'll get between 107 and 115, right? Not quite. Georgia's average is actually a little bit better than 'Bama's (you're welcome!), and against them we got only 9. So we'll get 9, right? Hold on, what's the hurry, son? The next best comps are LSU (84 yards) and Oregon (127 yards), and against them we got 96 and 182 yards, respectively. Factor in UT's bye week and that this will be Alabama's 8th game in a row, and I'm guessing 50 yards. Still bad, but not 9 yards bad.

Overall, there's really just no good way to look at this unless you give great weight to Tennessee's bye week, the fact that Alabama hasn't had a break since the beginning of the season, and the fact that Dooley has committed to getting a different QB some snaps to try to breathe some life into the offense. Still, it's shaping up to be not necessarily a blowout of storied proportions, but a dominating win the the Tide.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Tennessee got beat by a Florida team that Alabama pretty much dominated. They scored three TDs and a field goal on their first four drives and were smoke monsters in the red zone on defense.
  • Merely very good on offense, the Tide excels in almost every defensive stat category except sacks and tackles for loss. But they haven't played against UT's offensive line yet. Oh, and they're strong on punt and kickoff returns, too, so yay for that again.
  • If there's any hope for the Vols, it will likely be because of turnovers -- which have so far been hopelessly devoted to Alabama, but which can also be quite fickle -- and because Tennessee's had a week to tweak and rest while Alabama will be playing its 8th consecutive game.

Predictions

  • Alabama 31, Tennessee 13.
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