Tennessee Volunteers Vs. Kentucky Wildcats: 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 and Kentucky are fairly even on resume. Both have beaten Vandy, the difference in the game, as shown by the drive charts anyway, being that Kentucky finished strong and Tennessee didn't. Both teams also lost to Florida and Georgia. Kentucky beat South Carolina, who beat Tennessee, but Tennessee beat Ole Miss, who beat Kentucky. Got all that? Overall, Tennessee's played a fairly stronger schedule, so the stats should be viewed accordingly.
  • Kentucky is mostly a top 25 team on offense. They feature the best passing offense Tennessee will have seen all season, and they rank right up there with Oregon and Alabama in several other offensive stats.
  • On defense, the Wildcats are best at pass defense (12th in the nation), but they're vulnerable against the run (88th in the nation).
  • Randall Cobb is a one man wrecking machine, but QB Mike Hartline is also very good. Cobb is a receiver who ranks second in the nation in all-purpose running. He leads the team and is ranked nationally in both receiving categories, leads the team and is ranked nationally in both kickoff and punt returns, and leads the team in rushing yards. He may be the guy who retrieves the tee on kickoffs, too, I don't know.
  • The numbers favor Kentucky, but several things may work to Tennessee's advantage to deny the numbers their day. The Vols have played a better schedule, they have home field advantage on Senior Day, and they've been better able to win the turnover battle. And curses and streaks have ways of self-perpetuating. But they also have this nasty knack of coming to an end.

Predictions

  • Kentucky 35, Tennessee 28. Apologies.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Kentucky Logo
@ Louisville Cardinals 9/4/10 win 23 - 16 coverage
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 9/11/10 win 63 - 28 coverage
Akron Zips 9/18/10 win 47 - 10 coverage
@ Florida Gators 9/25/10 loss 14 - 48 coverage
@ Mississippi Rebels 10/2/10 loss 35 - 42 coverage
Auburn Tigers 10/9/10 loss 34 - 37 coverage
South Carolina Gamecocks 10/16/10 win 31 - 28 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 10/23/10 loss 31 - 44 coverage
@ Mississippi St. Bulldogs 10/30/10 loss 17 - 24 coverage
Charleston Southern Buccaneers 11/6/10 win 49 - 21 coverage
Vanderbilt Commodores 11/13/10 win 38 - 20 coverage

Let's see here. Tennessee and Kentucky both lost to the Gators and the Bulldogs and both beat Vandy. They lost to an Ole Miss team Tennessee beat, but they beat a South Carolina to which Tennessee lost. And so we go to the drive charts. Here's how Kentucky did against Vanderbilt:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Charts brought to you by Gameday Depot.

And here again is how Tennessee did against the Commodores:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Hmm. Really, those two drive charts look sorta similar. Right up until the point that Kentucky kicked it into gear. The Wildcats finished strong. We . . . did what we do.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 43 167.18 Georgia Tech 319.36 6 Auburn 307.91
Passing Offense 20 274.36 Hawaii 391.18 2 Arkansas 340.09
Total Offense 22 441.55 Oklahoma St. 552.00 3 Auburn 505.18
Scoring Offense 22 34.73 Oregon 50.70 4 Auburn 42.82
Passing Efficiency 22 150.51 Boise St. 185.81 6 Auburn 182.07
Sacks Allowed 24 1.18 Army .36 2 Mississippi 1.00

Offensive observations. I had no idea that Kentucky is a top 25 team in every offensive category but one. They have the best passing offense Tennessee has seen all year. Only Oregon's better in total offense, and only Oregon and Alabama are better in scoring offense. And will Tennessee be able to get any sacks? Justin Wilcox is going to have his hands full Saturday.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 88 178.64 Boise St. 72.30 11 South Carolina 96.09
Pass Efficiency Defense 51 123.25 Nebraska 93.77 6 Alabama 96.02
Total Defense 42 347.00 TCU 223.18 7 LSU 286.91
Scoring Defense 81 28.91 TCU 10.91 10 Alabama 12.82
Pass Defense 12 168.36 TCU 134.64 2 LSU 151.82
Sacks T-77 1.73 Boise St. 3.90 10 South Carolina 3.27
Tackles For Loss T-49 6.09 Boise St. 8.80 10 Vanderbilt 7.55

Defensive observations. This is a little bit better, except that they appear to be built to stop the thing Tennessee does best. They're not particularly awesome at anything, and they're particularly bad at stopping the run, but they'll be the second-best pass defense the Vols have faced this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Net Punting 52 36.90 Florida 42.24 8 Florida 42.24
Punt Returns 78 7.04 Oregon 20.73 9 Arkansas 18.31
Kickoff Returns 46 22.67 UCF 28.82 5 Florida 26.41
Turnover Margin 75 -.27 Virginia Tech 1.36 11 Alabama 1.09

Special teams and turnovers observations. With do-everything Randall Cobb on the team, I expected to see better "offensive" special teams numbers, but they're really just middle of the road on kickoff returns and don't rank well on punt returns. Keep an eye on that turnover margin, too, because if turnovers are more skill than luck (a debateable presumption), then Tennessee (#34 in turnover margin) should have a chance regardless of what the other numbers say.

Stastical Comparison

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

Rank Team WL SOS PED RD 3DO TD PEO OPPG TO 3DD
54 Kentucky Logo 52 58 51 88 32 42 22 81 22 56
68 Tennessee Logo 69 24 31 65 86 71 41 63 76 60

Well, that's a bit surprising, too, I think. Forget the rank and win/loss, as those can be sort of the results of the other categories. Tennessee ranks better in the three most-heavily weighted categories, and markedly so. Kentucky pretty much takes over from there, though, with the exception of opponent points per game.

Players to watch for

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Randall Cobb 34.18
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Mike Hartline 24 148.95
Total Offense Mike Hartline 29 261.82
Receptions Per Game Randall Cobb 25 6.00
Chris Matthews T-61 4.64
La'Rod King 2.91
Receiving Yards Per Game Randall Cobb T-32 76.27
Chris Matthews 39 73.82
La'Rod King 38.82
Scoring Randall Cobb 67 7.45
Craig McIntosh 6.10
Chris Matthews 4.91
DEFENSE
Interceptions Winston Guy .18
Sacks Danny Trevathan .27
Luke McDermott .27
Tackles Danny Trevathan T-9 10.91
Winston Guy T-67 8.27
Tackles For Loss Danny Trevathan T-21 1.36
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Ryan Tydlacka 19 44.46
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Randall Cobb 43 7.88
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Randall Cobb 63 23.52
Field Goals Craig McIntosh T-64 1.00
Ryan Tydlacka .09
All-Purpose Runners Randall Cobb 2 186.09
Chris Matthews 73.82
 

Observations

Offense. Randall Cobb and Mike Hartline make this team go. Cobb ranks well in several categories, but the thing that makes him so special is that he does so many different things for the 'Cats. He's listed as a wide receiver, and at that position, he ranks 25th and 32nd in receptions and receiving yards per game. Credit Hartline with some of that, as Hartline is also hitting WR Chris Matthews enough to make him 61st and 39th in the same categories. But Cobb doesn't stop there. He's also the team's leading rusher. And the punt returner, where he ranks 43rd. And the kickoff returner, where he ranks 63rd. All of that contributes to Cobb's #67 ranking in the scoring stat and to the most impressive stat of all: #2 in the nation in all-purpose rushing. For a receiver. Cobb is one of those guys you never really stop, but those kinds of guys are vulnerable to frustration if you can limit them enough. (Hi, Peter Warrick!) If.

Defense. On defense, the main guy to watch out for is junior linebacker Danny Trevathan, who I'm certain at some point has been called Danny Leviathan. He is tied for 9th nationally in tackles and tied for 21st in tackles for loss. Junior defensive back Winston Guy -- who must be like a B-list Marlboro Man -- also ranks nationally in tackles and is the team's leader in interceptions.

Special teams. Whole lotta Cobb here. Kentucky also has a good punter in Ryan Tydlacka. They're middle-of-the-pack in field goals, a fact that you should file away for the end of the game.

Head to Head Comparisons

How'd we do with the head-to-head comparisons duringVandy week? Remember last week when I said I was going to correct for two straight weeks of over-pessimism regarding the offense? Mistake.

  Prediction Result
UT rush 200 128
UT pass 300 232
Vandy rush 140 111
Vandy pass 180 222
UT score 38 24
Vandy score 17 10

So let's see how we can do this week:

  Tennessee Logo Kentucky Logo
Best Comparable(s)
Result Against Best Comp
Prediction
UT rush v. Kentucky rush defense 119.73
(#95)
178.64
(#88)
Memphis
(178.09)
(#86)
130 140
UT pass v. Kentucky pass defense 240.27
(#44)
168.36
(#12)
UF/AL/LSU
(168.64/168.73/151.82)
(#13/#14/#4)
259/156/121 180
Kentucky rush v. UT rush defense 155.82
(#65)
167.18
(#43)
Florida
(161.36)
(#48)
150 150
Kentucky pass v. UT pass defense 225.36
(#76)
274.36
(#20)
UAB/Oregon
(268.73/251.10)
(#26/#35)
429/202 300
UT scoring offense v. Kentucky scoring defense 27.27
(#59)
28.91
(#81)
Vanderbilt
(30.91)
(#91)
24 28
Kentucky scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 25.64
(#63)
34.73
(#22)
Alabama/South Carolina
(35.27/33.64)
(#20/#25)
41/38 35

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: We're holding opponents to an average of 225 yards passing. Kentucky is getting an average of 274, which is most closely comparable to, of all teams, UAB, which is averaging about 269. But the Blazers torched the Vols for 429 (!) yards. Outlier, that, so looking at the next best comp, we see that Oregon is averaging about 251, and Tennessee held them to 2020. Split the difference, and we get 300 passing yards for Kentucky. Bums.

Yeah, I have Kentucky with an advantage of 450 yards to Tennessee's 320. I nudged UT's score up a bit in light of the Tyler Bray trend, and I was tempted to predict 31 points, but Memphis was Memphis, Ole Miss was aided by two defensive scores, and against Vandy we got only 24. I do think our defense is (hopefully) better than it was against Alabama and South Carolina, so we should be able to hold UK to its scoring average, but it's still high.

Here's the thing, though. Tennessee's played a top 25 schedule, and Kentucky's played just an okay one, so perhaps that shifts the numbers closer to each other. Also, turnovers, again if they're more skill than luck, favor the Vols. And there's the home field advantage on senior day. And the uh-oh factor for Kentucky that I'd imagine isn't easy to shake off once its rooted onto your skin for a quarter of a century. So this could be a toss-up game like Vegas says. Who knows?

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Tennessee and Kentucky are fairly even on resume. Both have beaten Vandy, the difference in the game, as shown by the drive charts anyway, being that Kentucky finished strong and Tennessee didn't. Both teams also lost to Florida and Georgia. Kentucky beat South Carolina, who beat Tennessee, but Tennessee beat Ole Miss, who beat Kentucky. Got all that? Overall, Tennessee's played a fairly stronger schedule, so the stats should be viewed accordingly.
  • Kentucky is mostly a top 25 team on offense. They feature the best passing offense Tennessee will have seen all season, and they rank right up there with Oregon and Alabama in several other offensive stats.
  • On defense, the Wildcats are best at pass defense (12th in the nation), but they're vulnerable against the run (88th in the nation).
  • Randall Cobb is a one man wrecking machine, but QB Mike Hartline is also very good. Cobb is a receiver who ranks second in the nation in all-purpose running. He leads the team and is ranked nationally in both receiving categories, leads the team and is ranked nationally in both kickoff and punt returns, and leads the team in rushing yards. He may be the guy who retrieves the tee on kickoffs, too, I don't know.
  • The numbers favor Kentucky, but several things may work to Tennessee's advantage to deny the numbers their day. The Vols have played a better schedule, they have home field advantage on Senior Day, and they've been better able to win the turnover battle. And curses and streaks have ways of self-perpetuating. But they also have this nasty knack of coming to an end.

Predictions

  • Kentucky 35, Tennessee 28. Apologies.
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