Tennessee Volunteers vs. MTSU Blue Raiders 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

  • The respective schedules of Tennessee and MTSU make statistical comparisons problematic. The Blue Raiders have compiled theirs against a poor slate with a good team or two while the Vols have built their resume against the mirror image of that.
  • Believe it or not, MTSU's passing attack may be the best that the Vols have faced all season. According to the national rankings, the closest comparison is Georgia, who ranks 54th to the Blue Raiders' 21st. At least Tennessee's not vulnerable there. Gulp. And at least we haven't lost yet another guy back there. Big Gulp.
  • MTSU's defense is terrrible and provides a good game for Justin Worley to shake off last week and start his ascent to Volunteer stardom.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 31, MTSU 17.

Schedules

 

MTSU Logo

@ Purdue Boilermakers 9/3/11 loss 24 - 27 coverage
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9/10/11 loss 21 - 49 coverage
@ Troy Trojans 9/24/11 loss 35 - 38 coverage
Memphis Tigers 10/1/11 win 38 - 31 coverage
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 10/6/11 loss 33 - 36 coverage
@ Florida Atlantic Owls 10/22/11 win 38 - 14 coverage
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 10/29/11 loss 20 - 45 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

Nothing to see or compare here, really. Similar records -- 2-5 theirs to 3-5 ours -- but their loss column includes Troy, Western Kentucky, and a very different team from Louisiana. No common opponents, so no drive charts. Faux sad face.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 47 172.86 Army 369.00 1 Middle Tenn. 172.86
Passing Offense 21 289.57 Houston 453.25 1 Middle Tenn. 289.57
Total Offense 22 462.43 Houston 612.38 1 Middle Tenn. 462.43
Scoring Offense 51 29.86 Houston 52.25 3 La.-Lafayette 32.67
Passing Efficiency 68 127.66 Baylor 192.36 4 La.-Lafayette 145.03
Sacks Allowed 5 .57 Oklahoma .38 1 Middle Tenn. .57

Offensive observations. Here's where we emphasize the key caveat again. MTSU has compiled its stats against weak competition, okay? Okay. With that in mind, they appear to be middle of the pack in most things except that they're top quartile in total offense primarily due to their passing game. In fact, as you'll see later on, the Blue Raiders have, on paper, the best passing attack the Vols have faced all season, and it's not even close. The next best passing team in the rankings is Georgia, and they're way down at #54. Add to that the fact that we lost Brent Brewer last week, and this is the Uh-Oh stat of the week. Oh, and they don't allow sacks, so we shouldn't expect any from a defense not very good at getting them.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 112 218.00 Alabama 44.88 9 La.-Monroe 103.75
Pass Efficiency Defense 90 138.36 Alabama 83.63 7 Arkansas St. 117.12
Total Defense 106 440.29 Alabama 180.50 7 La.-Monroe 324.13
Scoring Defense 107 34.29 Alabama 6.88 8 Arkansas St. 19.63
Pass Defense 60 222.29 Michigan St. 127.25 4 Arkansas St. 212.00
Sacks 46 2.14 Oklahoma 4.25 7 Western Ky. 2.75
Tackles For Loss T-29 7.00 South Fla. 8.71 4 Western Ky. 7.75

Defensive observations. Here's good news. MTSU's defense is terrible, pretty much across the board. This appears to be the perfect game to get Worley on track and feeling good about himself.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Net Punting 34 38.08 Oregon 45.14 4 North Texas 40.03
Punt Returns 48 9.27 Ole Miss 27.75 4 Arkansas St. 10.12
Kickoff Returns 94 19.91 Temple 28.83 6 Western Ky. 27.26
Turnover Margin 69 -.14 Oklahoma St. 2.38 4 North Texas .78

Special teams and turnovers observations. Nothing much to see here, either.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing William Pratcher 96 63.57
Logan Kilgore 12.00
Kyle Griswould 11.86
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Logan Kilgore 72 125.79
Total Offense Logan Kilgore 26 279.00
William Pratcher 63.57
Receptions Per Game Malcolm Beyah 49 5.57
Tavarres Jefferson 4.00
Sancho McDonald 3.57
Anthony Amos 2.67
Receiving Yards Per Game Malcolm Beyah 83 63.71
Anthony Amos 45.83
Sancho McDonald 44.43
Tavarres Jefferson 29.86
Scoring Malcolm Beyah 6.00
Alan Gendreau 5.86
Sancho McDonald 3.43
Anthony Amos 3.00

Offensive Observations. That chart is busting at the seams, but not particularly with quality. Sophomore QB Logan Kilgore is ranked 26th in the nation in total offense, and his primary target appears to be senior WR Malcolm Beyah. He spreads it around pretty well, though. This is the game where Tennessee fans get frustrated with their defense, but if it happens it may be just because MTSU actually has a good passing attack, and we have problems in the secondary that have mostly been masked except for a big play here and there. Justin Wilcox may roll out an entirely new strategy this week, though, so we'll see.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Eric Russell T-80 .29
T.L. Edwards .14
Sacks Leighton Gasque T-23 .71
Omar McLendon .36
Tackles Eric Russell T-86 7.86
Tackles For Loss Leighton Gasque .71
Jiajuan Fennell .71

Defense. Freshman LB Leighton Gasque is the producer on defense, getting pressure in the backfield. Other than that, though, there doesn't appear to be any real concern.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Nathaniel Toulson 48 40.90
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Eric Russell T-53 6.00
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Eric Russell 87 21.78
Field Goals Alan Gendreau T-87 .71
All-Purpose Runners Eric Russell 100 105.71
William Pratcher 72.00
Malcolm Beyah 66.43

Special teams. Eh.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo MTSU Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. MTSU rush defense 82.63
(#119)
218.00
(#112)
Buffalo
( 200.89)
(#102)
199 200
UT pass v. MTSU pass defense 247.25
(#45)
222.29
(#60)
Buffalo
( 200.33)
(#33)
342 200
MTSU rush v. UT rush defense 163.63
(#69)
172.86
(#47)
Georgia
( 165.25)
(#52)
139 140
MTSU pass v. UT pass defense 193.50
(#24)
289.57
(#21)
Georgia
( 238.75)
(#54)
227 250
UT scoring offense v. MTSU scoring defense 22.38
(#96)
34.29
(#107)
Buffalo
( 30.11)
(#84)
41 31
MTSU scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 23.88
(#46)
29.86
(#51)
South Carolina
(30.13)
(#49)
14 17

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.

If it wasn't for MTSU's passing game, this wouldn't even be close, I don't think. Even with that, though, I'm guessing it should be a comfortable win for the Vols.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • The respective schedules of Tennessee and MTSU make statistical comparisons problematic. The Blue Raiders have compiled theirs against a poor slate with a good team or two while the Vols have built their resume against the mirror image of that.
  • Believe it or not, MTSU's passing attack may be the best that the Vols have faced all season. According to the national rankings, the closest comparison is Georgia, who ranks 54th to the Blue Raiders' 21st. At least Tennessee's not vulnerable there. Gulp. And at least we haven't lost yet another guy back there. Big Gulp.
  • MTSU's defense is terrrible and provides a good game for Justin Worley to shake off last week and start his ascent to Volunteer stardom.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 31, MTSU 17.
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