Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats: 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

  • Kentucky can punt and defend against the pass.
  • Kentucky pretty much can't do anything else. They're bottom quartile in every offensive category and bottom half in every non-passing defensive category.
  • Comparing them to Tennessee's 2011 opponents, the Wildcats are, with the exception of pass defense, most similar to Buffalo and MTSU.
  • On the other hand, Tennessee is coming off a rare good news game, and we don't yet know how they'll follow it up. Do they give it its due and no more, or do they subconsciously think that turning the corner is the end of the race?

Predictions

  • Tennessee 31, Kentucky 10.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Kentucky Logo

@ Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 9/1/11 win 14 - 3 coverage
Central Michigan Chippewas 9/10/11 win 27 - 13 coverage
Louisville Cardinals 9/17/11 loss 17 - 24 coverage
Florida Gators 9/24/11 loss 10 - 48 coverage
@ LSU Tigers 10/1/11 loss 7 - 35 coverage
@ South Carolina Gamecocks 10/8/11 loss 3 - 54 coverage
Jacksonville St. Gamecocks 10/22/11 win 38 - 14 coverage
Mississippi St. Bulldogs 10/29/11 loss 16 - 28 coverage
Mississippi Rebels 11/5/11 win 30 - 13 coverage
@ Vanderbilt Commodores 11/12/11 loss 8 - 38 coverage
@ Georgia Bulldogs 11/19/11 loss 10 - 19 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
@ Arkansas Razorbacks 11/12/11 loss 7 - 49 coverage
Vanderbilt Commodores 11/19/11 win 27 - 21 coverage

Hmm. As bad as Kentucky has sounded through the highlights and recaps of the season, you can almost look at their schedule and say, well, okay. Let's hope there's no real shame in losing to Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia. Louisville and Mississippi State are not good, true, but that Georgia score of 10-19 looks uncomfortably close to our 12-20. Yeah, caveats for injuries and catching teams at different times and all that, but still. The one glaring difference is the Vanderbilt game, which we won and they lost big. Speaking of . . .

FULL SCREEN VERSION


FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Charts brought to you by Gameday Depot.

Whoa. Kentucky crossed midfield only twice against the 'Dores, and once only barely. And Vandy scored 38 and looks like they left a score on the table just before the half.

That Tennessee-Vandy drive chart may be the weirdest I've seen in a long time. You have to love how the Commodores' drives ended: one Fumble!, three Interceptions!, two FG Misseds! That 80-yard TD drive after Vandy took the lead may have been the most important drive of the season.

Anyway, the conclusion I draw from those two drive charts is that Vandy may have simply played much better against Kentucky than it did against Tennessee. How much of that had to do with the opponent is kind of hard to tell.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 98 117.09 Army 350.91 11 Alabama 220.45
Passing Offense 110 146.55 Houston 447.45 12 Arkansas 316.91
Total Offense 118 263.64 Houston 618.27 12 Arkansas 463.27
Scoring Offense 117 16.36 Houston 53.09 12 Arkansas 39.27
Passing Efficiency 117 96.36 Baylor 192.09 12 LSU 159.38
Sacks Allowed 114 3.18 Oklahoma .60 12 LSU .91

Offensive observations. Hey, for Kentucky #opportunityreallyisno-where, at least on offense. Seriously, that's horriterribaddiblen. Bottom quartile in every single offensive category. Bless their little blue hearts.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 100 194.27 Alabama 74.64 11 Alabama 74.64
Pass Efficiency Defense 39 121.92 Alabama 84.79 8 Alabama 84.79
Total Defense 63 386.18 Alabama 195.91 10 Alabama 195.91
Scoring Defense 60 26.27 Alabama 8.36 10 Alabama 8.36
Pass Defense 21 191.91 Alabama 121.27 6 Alabama 121.27
Sacks T-81 1.64 Texas A&M 3.73 9 Georgia 2.73
Tackles For Loss 79 5.18 South Fla. 8.80 11 Georgia 7.73

Defensive observations. Here's something. Kentucky does a good job against the pass, both in yards and efficiency. Other than that, though, they're middle of the pack on everything else except rushing defense, at which they're very bad.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conference Leader Actual
Net Punting 14 39.35 Florida St. 42.50 2 LSU 40.53
Punt Returns 116 2.00 Ole Miss 20.45 12 Ole Miss 20.45
Kickoff Returns 82 20.28 UCF 27.53 10 Arkansas 24.28
Turnover Margin 72 -.18 LSU 1.64 10 LSU 1.64

Special teams and turnovers observations. The Wildcats are averaging nearly 40 net yards per punt, which is enviable. The rest of their special teams? Not so enviable.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Morgan Newton 30.22
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Morgan Newton 93.11
Total Offense Morgan Newton 118.33
Receptions Per Game La'Rod King 3.55
Matt Roark 3.27
Receiving Yards Per Game La'Rod King 54.18
Matt Roark 31.73
Scoring Craig McIntosh 5.20
La'Rod King 3.82

Offensive Observations. Nobody on offense ranks nationally. This chart says that Morgan Newton is their quarterback and leading rusher and that when he can, he throws to receivers La'Rod King and Matt Roark.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Danny Trevathan T-18 .36
Randall Burden T-63 .27
Winston Guy .18
Sacks Danny Trevathan .27
Tackles Danny Trevathan 3 12.27
Winston Guy 22 9.64
Martavius Neloms 7.10
Ronnie Sneed 6.36
Tackles For Loss Winston Guy T-57 1.09
Danny Trevathan .91

Defense. This is better. Senior linebacker Danny Trevathan is real. He not only ranks 3rd in the nation in tackles per game, he's tied for 18th in interceptions per game. The Winston Guy also tackles people.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Ryan Tydlacka 20 43.66
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Randall Burden 53 1.73
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Mychal Bailey 20.69
Field Goals Craig McIntosh T-48 1.10
All-Purpose Runners

Special teams. The punter's name would stymie even the best Wheel of Fortune champion. He punts well, too. But that empty All-Purpose Runners box is hilarious. Did we see a running back anywhere in any of the player charts?

/looksforthethirdtime

No, we did not. The NCAA's site does show nine of them on the roster, so it's not like they've already hired Mike Leach, but wowzamighty. For comparison's sake, Tauren Poole's name shows up in our box twice, and Marlin Lane's shows up once.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo Kentucky Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. Kentucky rush defense 92.73
(#117)
194.27
(#100)
Buffalo/MTSU
(186.82/210.90)
(#92/107)
199/120 160
UT pass v. Kentucky pass defense 245.09
(#44)
191.91
(#21)
Georgia/Arkansas
(182.18/196.09)
(#13/28)
290/238 260
Kentucky rush v. UT rush defense 159.09
(#66)
117.09
(#98)
Arkansas
(146.36)
(#72)
254 120
Kentucky pass v. UT pass defense 192.64
(#22)
146.55
(#110)
LSU
(167.64)
(#103)
146 150
UT scoring offense v. Kentucky scoring defense 21.55
(#101)
26.27
(#60)
Buffalo
(28.27)
(#73)
41 31
Kentucky scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 23.73
(#46)
16.36
(#117)
Buffalo
(21.64)
(#100)
10 10

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.

This week's example: We're averaging nearly 93 yards on the ground per game. Kentucky gives up about 194 on average, making them the 100th-best rush defense in the nation. Buffalo is eight spots better, and MTSU is seven spots worse, and against them we got 199 and 120, respectively. Average those out and you get 160.

This week's counter example: We're allowing nearly 160 yards on the ground per game, and Kentucky's getting about 117, which puts them at 98th in the nation. The closest comp is Arkansas, who gets and ranks 146 and #72. The Hogs rushed for 254 yards against us. Yeah, they're better than Kentucky, but that's a fluky number, so I'm just going to guess that Kentucky gets their average and be done with it.

So Kentucky:

  • Stops the run like Buffalo and MTSU;
  • Stops the pass like Georgia and Arkansas;
  • Rushes like Arkansas (not as good as it sounds)
  • Passes like LSU (also not as good as it sounds); and
  • Allows points and scores like Buffalo.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Kentucky can punt and defend against the pass.
  • Kentucky pretty much can't do anything else. They're bottom quartile in every offensive category and bottom half in every non-passing defensive category.
  • Comparing them to Tennessee's 2011 opponents, the Wildcats are, with the exception of pass defense, most similar to Buffalo and MTSU.
  • On the other hand, Tennessee is coming off a rare good news game, and we don't yet know how they'll follow it up. Do they give it its due and no more, or do they subconsciously think that turning the corner is the end of the race?

Predictions

  • Tennessee 31, Kentucky 10.
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