Evidence that 2012 should be The Year of the Vol

Commentator extraordinaire Bill C.'s (Far Too Early, Sure To Change A Thousand Times) 2012 F/+ Projections are up over at Football Study Hall, with Tennessee checking in at number 20, albeit behind SEC rivals Georgia (#10), Florida (#14), and South Carolina (#19).* The Vols earned their ranking courtesy of the newly signed (and 13th ranked) 2012 recruiting class and large number (20) of returning starters.

For those of us hoping that this is the year that the bamboo grows, I've taken the F/+ rankings for each team on the Vols' 2012 schedule to establish a thoroughly pseudo-scientific expectation of victory for each game: positive numbers should increasingly correlate with victory, and negative numbers should correlate with defeat.

Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Diff. btwn Opp. and Vols
09/01/12 NC State -1.6% 15.5%
09/08/12 Georgia State Not found Let's say this is a win
09/15/12 Florida 17.9% -4.0%
09/22/12 Akron -26.3% 40.2%
09/29/12 at Georgia 19.6% -5.7%
10/13/12 at Mississippi State 5.3% 8.6%
10/20/12 Alabama 32.9% -19.0%
10/27/12 at South Carolina 14.1% -0.2%
11/03/12 Troy -16.6% 30.5%
11/10/12 Missouri 10.4% 3.5%
11/17/12 at Vanderbilt 10.1% 3.8%
11/24/12 Kentucky -7.8% 21.7%

Interestingly, the numbers correspond to my general feeling about the upcoming season, with the season dividing neatly into three categories: have-to-win, need-to-win, and would-like-to-win. Headlining a truly awful non-conference schedule are lightweights Akron and Troy (both waaaaaay down in the rankings) and little sister of the poor Georgia State (unranked, probably due to their transition into D-1). Tennessee should win all three of those games handily, as well as the games against Kentucky and NC State. Next up are the need-to-wins, meaning that any Tennessee head coach needs to win these games or face the pitchforks and orange mob. Vandy, Mizzou, and Mississippi State are all firmly middle-tier teams, capable of beating teams that don't play with focus and take care of the football. The Vols should be more talented than all of them. Finally, the last tier of games are the would-like-to-wins, featuring SEC East rivals Georgia and Florida, and historic no-body South Carolina; all three teams are close enough in projected F/+ that we'll get an idea whether or not the new coaching staff can coach. (Note: traditional rival Alabama is so far off-the-charts that it's not worth thinking about right now. I'd love a win, but it would be a huge upset.)

*For those who don't follow advanced football stats, F/+ is a combination of two metrics: FEI measures drive success and S&P+ uses play-by-play data to measure expected points and success rate. Final rankings for 2011 are here.

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