Tennessee Volunteers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Game Preview

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

Sketchy Conclusions

  • These pigs can't run, but they can fly. The Vols have had repeated reps attempting to stop teams that are either balanced or better at the run than the pass. Not so much a one-dimensional passing attack. Can the Vols have as much success against a team that can mostly only pass as it's had against teams that can mostly only run? Could it be enough?
  • Tennessee sort of gave its game to South Carolina, and Carolina sort of gave its game to Arkansas. Stop being so nice, and this could actually be close.
  • The Razorbacks defense isn't spectacular. Yet neither is UT's offense.
  • To have a shot at this game, the Vols need to limit the Hogs' passing attack, minimize mistakes, and have some success on offense. That's right, to win, they need to play football well.

Predictions

  • Arkansas 34, Tennessee 13. I really think it's going to be much closer than that, but the numbers are telling me that they're tired of being ignored and under-appreciated and if I don't start listening to them they're going to throw my stuff on the lawn and hurl insults out the second-story window.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

 

Arkansas Logo

Missouri St. Bears 9/3/11 win 51 - 7 coverage
New Mexico Lobos 9/10/11 win 52 - 3 coverage
Troy Trojans 9/17/11 win 38 - 28 coverage
@ Alabama Crimson Tide 9/24/11 loss 14 - 38 coverage
Texas A&M Aggies 10/1/11 win 42 - 38 coverage
Auburn Tigers 10/8/11 win 38 - 14 coverage
@ Mississippi Rebels 10/22/11 win 29 - 24 coverage
@ Vanderbilt Commodores 10/29/11 win 31 - 28 coverage
South Carolina Gamecocks 11/5/11 win 44 - 28 coverage

Tennessee Logo

Montana Grizzlies 9/3/11 win 42 - 16 coverage
Cincinnati Bearcats 9/10/11 win 45 - 23 coverage
@ Florida Gators 9/17/11 loss 23 - 33 coverage
Buffalo Bulls 10/1/11 win 41 - 10 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 10/8/11 loss 12 - 20 coverage
LSU Tigers 10/15/11 loss 7 - 38 coverage
@ Alabama Crimson Tide 10/22/11 loss 6 - 37 coverage
South Carolina Gamecocks 10/29/11 loss 3 - 14 coverage
Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders 11/5/11 win 24 - 0 coverage

So the pigs eased into the season and then lost to Alabama. There's no shame in getting beat by the Tide, and Arkansas scored more points against them than anyone else this season, a whopping 14. They barely squeaked by an A&M team that is 5-4, but three of those four are to Arkansas and the Oklahomas. The most peculiar result is a fling with Ole Miss, who is Ole Miss.

Measuring sticks:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.
FULL SCREEN VERSION


Okay, so Arkansas didn't fall apart in the second half like we did. They just distributed their bad on defense equally in both halves. As I said before, they did score more points against 'Bama than anyone else has this year, so that 14 is actually pretty impressive.

FULL SCREEN VERSION


FULL SCREEN VERSION


Carolina didn't kill us, we were just suffering from Worley Jitters. And Carolina didn't get killed by Arkansas, they imploded with four turnovers on their last five (or six) drives. Eliminate the mistakes in each game, and each game is at least much closer and the transitive starts to look particularly shiny and tempting. Right, Will? It's beautiful! THE must-have gift of the season!

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 83 132.22 Army 365.78 10 Alabama 214.44
Passing Offense 8 318.67 Houston 457.11 1 Arkansas 318.67
Total Offense 23 450.89 Houston 617.00 1 Arkansas 450.89
Scoring Offense 15 37.67 Houston 52.67 1 Arkansas 37.67
Passing Efficiency 30 145.05 Baylor 189.55 3 Georgia 154.89
Sacks Allowed T-64 2.00 Stanford .44 5 LSU .89

Offensive observations. Hahahahahahahahaha, 83rd rushing offense in the nation is horrible wait never mind. But seriously, their short little stumpy legs aren't very impressive, but these pigs can fly. With a nearly-bad-as-us running game, the passing offense is all the more impressive, both individually because of the single dimension challenge and overall because total offense and scoring offense are excellent despite those stumpy little legs.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 79 176.00 Alabama 56.33 9 Alabama 56.33
Pass Efficiency Defense 24 116.03 Alabama 83.11 6 Alabama 83.11
Total Defense 55 375.11 Alabama 187.00 9 Alabama 187.00
Scoring Defense T-40 23.11 Alabama 7.11 8 Alabama 7.11
Pass Defense 32 199.11 Alabama 130.67 9 Alabama 130.67
Sacks T-69 1.78 Oklahoma 3.78 8 LSU 2.33
Tackles For Loss 55 5.89 South Fla. 9.00 8 LSU 7.44

Defensive observations. Average, mean, mean, average. With the exception of pass efficiency defense, Arkansas isn't particularly strong defensively. If only had a potent offense. Sigh.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Net Punting 43 37.49 Oregon 44.24 6 LSU 40.68
Punt Returns 24 11.87 Ole Miss 25.11 3 Ole Miss 25.11
Kickoff Returns 10 25.84 TCU 28.00 1 Arkansas 25.84
Turnover Margin T-42 .22 Oklahoma St. 1.89 5 LSU 1.67

Special teams and turnovers observations. Yeah, the hogs are good at returning kickoffs, but that may be because of the reps they get from SCORING ALL THE TIME and this week they're going up against KICKOFF RETURN YARDAGE DEFENSE U! They return punts pretty well, too, but we're also pretty good at that.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Dennis Johnson 58.71
Ronnie Wingo, Jr. 41.12
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Tyler Wilson 32 144.65
Total Offense Tyler Wilson 20 291.78
Dennis Johnson 58.71
Receptions Per Game Jarius Wright T-35 6.00
Joe Adams T-93 4.56
Chris Gragg 3.11
Cobi Hamilton 2.56
Receiving Yards Per Game Jarius Wright 16 101.50
Joe Adams 57.33
Cobi Hamilton 44.11
Chris Gragg 35.67
Scoring Zach Hocker T-21 9.00
Jarius Wright T-95 6.75

Offensive Observations. Neither of their running backs are nationally-ranked, but it's important to note that there are two of them sharing the load 60/40. Does that bode well for a poor second-half team? Don't answer that.

Tyler Wilson is either excellent or merely a QB in Bobby Petrino's offense. Regardless, his numbers are very, very good. He spreads it around well, but his number one target appears to be Jarius Wright, who ranks high nationally in both receptions and receiving yards per game. Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton, and Chris Gragg all get theirs, too, though, and whichever one has the fortune of being assigned to that vulnerability in our secondary figures to have a big game. Unless we plug it, which we're going to do because I wish it and my feelings have powers.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Eric Bennett T-41 .33
Tramain Thomas T-41 .33
Sacks Alonzo Highsmith .33
Ross Rasner .22
Tackles Jerry Franklin T-71 8.11
Alonzo Highsmith 6.00
Tramain Thomas 6.00
Eric Bennett 5.89
Tackles For Loss Alonzo Highsmith T-58 1.11
Jerry Franklin T-67 1.06

Defense. The danger in the defense appears to start five yards back at the linebacker position and get more dangerous in the secondary. Eric Bennett and Tramain Thomas rank well in interceptions as defensive backs, and linebacker Jerry Franklin ranks in tackles. Even the sack guys -- Alonzo Highsmith and Ross Rasner -- are LBs. The d-line doesn't appear to be much to be concerned about.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Dylan Breeding 14 44.28
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Joe Adams 6 14.62
Marquel Wade 31 8.30
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Marquel Wade 13 29.60
Dennis Johnson 41 25.12
Field Goals Zach Hocker T-12 1.56
All-Purpose Runners Dennis Johnson 20 150.43
Jarius Wright 101.50
Joe Adams 93.78
Ronnie Wingo, Jr. 64.12

Special teams. I was going to devote an entire ESPN special to Joe Adams until I realized that he had 6 punt returns for 174 and two TDs against Missouri State in the opener and 16 total punt return yards since then. Marquel Wade may be someone to watch on kickoffs, though, because he's had two games over 80 yards, including a TD against, well, it was New Mexico, but you know.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo Arkansas Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. Arkansas rush defense 86.78
(#118)
176.00
(#79)
Buffalo
(200.89)
(#103)
199 120
UT pass v. Arkansas pass defense 252.11
(#42)
199.11
(#32)
Buffalo/MTSU
(200.33/230.88)
(#34#67)
342/291 200
Arkansas rush v. UT rush defense 156.22
(#62)
132.22
(#83)
Buffalo
(136.22)
(#80)
148 140
Arkansas pass v. UT pass defense 186.78
(#17)
318.67
(#8)
MTSU/GA
(270/253.22)
(#26/#39)
133/227 220
UT scoring offense v. Arkansas scoring defense 22.56
(#96)
23.11
(#40)
SC/GA/FL
(20.11/19.89/19.67)
(#24/#23/#20)
3/12/23 13
Arkansas scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 21.22
(#28)
37.67
(#15)
Cincinnati/LSU/AL
(39.13/35.89/35.67)
(#11/#20/#23)
23/38/37 34

As always, these are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations, and 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.

These comps are still all screwed up due to injuries and new players getting their feet wet at different times in key positions all season. That 200 yard rushing game we had against Buffalo? A long time ago, my friend. The 342-yard passing game against Buffalo? Similar, and a different QB. MTSU is probably the better comp there despite the fact that the Blue Raiders really aren't even close to Arkansas in pass defense. We have not seen a passing attack like we'll see Saturday, but neither have we really had much opportunity to focus on a one-dimensional passing attack. The other way around, yes, but not this. What might Wilcox have up his sleeve?

Regardless of all of that, the point projections are wildly variant from the yard projections. I can't bring myself to alter the guesses on points, but I just can't help thinking that yards, which I feel better about, have to have a stronger correllation to points than those figures indicate.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • These pigs can't run, but they can fly. The Vols have had repeated reps attempting to stop teams that are either balanced or better at the run than the pass. Not so much a one-dimensional passing attack. Can the Vols have as much success against a team that can mostly only pass as it's had against teams that can mostly only run? Could it be enough?
  • Tennessee sort of gave its game to South Carolina, and Carolina sort of gave its game to Arkansas. Stop being so nice, and this could actually be close.
  • The Razorbacks defense isn't spectacular. Yet neither is UT's offense.
  • To have a shot at this game, the Vols need to limit the Hogs' passing attack, minimize mistakes, and have some success on offense. That's right, to win, they need to play football well.

Predictions

Arkansas 34, Tennessee 13. I really think it's going to be much closer than that, but the numbers are telling me that they're tired of being ignored and under-appreciated and if I don't start listening to them they're going to throw my stuff on the lawn and hurl insults out the second-story window.

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