#OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE: Tracking Tennessee Football's Opportunity for Improvement in October

Brace. This update on the improvement of the Tennessee Volunteers is not happy.

First up, the list of Things Tennessee is Doing Well, at least as of the end of the Georgia game:

Categories In Which Tennessee
Was In The Top Quartile This Season
Category

2010

MT CIN FL BUF GA
Offense Third-down Efficiency   11 4 7 T-1 4
Passes Had Intercepted         T-17 T-6
Passing Offense 30 16 9 11 11 11
Time of Possession 90 14 5 10 5 12
Passing Efficiency   7 5 13 8 13
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense 9 14 12 21 18 13
Turnovers Lost         T-26 14
Red Zone Efficiency 104 T-7 -   23 17
First Downs 92 66 11 12 11 22
First Downs Allowed         20 22
Scoring Defense - - - - - 29
Defense Third-down Efficiency - - - - - 30
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency - - T-1 19 T-7 -
Scoring Offense   27 22 - 21  

All of those categories relating to the passing game? Forget 'em, because they're going bye bye. Whether they all fall off the board because Matt Simms is not Tyler Bray or because LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina are not Montana, Cincinnati, and Buffalo, we won't know, at least for another season, which honestly is one of the things that sucks the most about all of this. The same thing I felt about Justin Hunter and the Florida game -- that the worst part of losing him so early was that it deprived us of the opportunity to even see how we stacked up against them -- is now present for the remainder of October, although to a slightly lesser degree. We may not have been able to compete with LSU and Alabama anyway, but now we don't even get to see how our best measures up. The games will essentially mean nothing because they won't tell us anything about who we are or how far we've come. Because it won't even be us. I'm sure I'll come around later this week and conclude that there are other means by which to measure us in October, but right now, it just feels . . . meaningless? Sorry, but it's how I feel right now.

There are a few positives here, though. First Downs Allowed not only held fast in the 20s, two other legit defensive categories -- scoring defense and defense third-down efficiency -- crept into the top 30. Yeah, a lot of those good 3rd downs were nullified by subsequently bad 4th downs, but I'm not sure that the latter really diminishes the importance of the former. In any event, the defense gave up some big plays against Georgia, and they still have their issues -- see below -- but it does appear to be improving.

Let's take a look at the players who made the top 30 this week, just so we can see who and exactly what we're going to be saying a long goodbye to:

 

Player Stat MT CIN FL BUF GA
Tyler Bray Passing Yards Per Game 14 6 7 T-7 9
Tyler Bray Points Responsible For T-19 T-4 T-6 3 11
Tyler Bray Passing Efficiency 5 5 15 7 11
Tyler Bray Total Passing Yards 14 4 5 16 13
Tyler Bray Total Offense 29 9 12 13 17
Tyler Bray Passing (completions) - 10 14 16 21
Da'Rick Rogers Receiving Yards Per Game       17 23
Da'Rick Rogers Total Receiving Yards - - - - 29
Da'Rick Rogers Receptions Per Game - - 25 25 30

Apparently, we can't have nice things. Last week, this thing was nine lines of Tyler Bray, Da'Rick Rogers, and Justin Hunter, for whom it took three weeks of a torn up knee to fall out of the top 30. Bray's out now, which should completely rewrite this thing in short order not only for him but for Da'Rick as well. That whole "Points Responsible For" thing? Yeah. Back to the drawing board with our best pieces being Matt Simms, Da'Rick, and Mychal Rivera, and with glaring weaknesses in the running game. And the top two teams in the nation waiting.

And now that I think about it, now that Bray's out, that whole "yeah, but the level of competition" thing is now going to haunt him, as well as the team, until at least this time next year. Mournful sigh. Yet another question for which we will be deprived an answer we were expecting to get this season.

#OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE

And now for those areasofgreatestopportunity:

Categories In Which Tennessee
Is (Or Was) In The Bottom Quartile
This Season

Category 2010 MT CIN FL BUF GA
Rushing Offense 105 74 - 105 98 114
Passes Intercepted - - - 93 111 T-113
Turnovers Gained         98 107
Net Punting - - - 96 116 105
Pass Sacks - - - - - 91
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game - - - 98 - -
Fewest Penalties Per Game - - - 97 - -
Offense Fourth Down Efficiency 96 59   94 - -
Punt Returns 109 64 - 91 - -

Just to underscore that this stuff matters, note that two of the things that killed us against Georgia were the 31-yard punt to set the Bulldogs up for their first TD and failing to get a single turnover from a turnover prone opponent. Oh, and negative rushing yardage, that was probably a factor, too, huh? A Tennessee football team is rubbing elbows with Rutgers, Kent St., Arizona, Miami of Ohio, Idaho, and East Carolina in its ability to run the stupid football.

These things need to be fixed, and they need to be fixed now. And fixing them should be no problem whatsoever against our October slate, right? See? Not happy.

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