Tennessee Volunteers Vs. Georgia Bulldogs: Statistic-Based Game Preview

John Sommers II - Getty Images

The numbers say that Georgia will beat Tennessee this weekend, but that it might be closer than some think.

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts, links to SB Nation game pages, and statistical comparisons. Caveats. And yeah, it's a long post, so we put the conclusions and predictions at both the beginning and the end. You're not seeing double.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Georgia's stats so far this season appear to be more impressive than Tennessee's, but they have been compiled against a schedule that appears to be weaker than Tennessee's, at least to some degree.
  • Georgia's secret sauce seems to be balance. They're top 30 in both Rushing Offense and Passing Offense, and the balance is almost certainly the reason for their Total and Scoring Offense both being top 15. Their defense doesn't rank as well as their offense, but it's still above average.
  • With a lot of teams, you can point to just a single guy or a group of two as the thing that makes the team go. Not so with Georgia, whose offense is run by terrific QB Aaron Murray (who can not only pass but can hurt you on the ground if necessary), excellent running back Todd Gurley, and a trio of very good wide receivers. Same goes for the defense. They're strong almost everywhere, although they do have a star on that side of the ball in Jarvis Jones as well.
  • Both teams figure to put up a lot of yards and a lot of points, although they probably won't hit their high averages.

Predictions

  • Georgia 38, Tennessee 31

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Georgia Logo
Buffalo Bulls 9/1/12 win 45 - 23 coverage
@ Missouri Tigers 9/8/12 win 41 - 20 coverage
Florida Atlantic Owls 9/15/12 win 56 - 20 coverage
Vanderbilt Commodores 9/22/12 win 48 - 3 coverage
Tennessee Logo
@ N.C. State Wolfpack 8/31/12 win 35 - 21 coverage
Georgia State Panthers 9/8/12 win 51 - 13 coverage
Florida Gators 9/15/12 loss 20 - 37 coverage
Akron Zips 9/22/12 win 47 - 26 coverage

If I'm reading the NCAA's "Toughest Schedule" PDF right (a questionable proposition), Tennessee's schedule is currently ranked 25th and Georgia's is ranked 115th. That sort of passes the smell test when Missouri looks to be the best opponent for the Bulldogs and Tennessee's schedule includes both Florida and N.C. State. But who knows? It's still early to be making those kinds of calls.

Here are the drive charts from the Bulldogs' two SEC games so far:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

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

That Missouri game was in doubt early, a real contest for a long time, and then just won late. And oh, Vandy, thanks for the reminder that I need to add "LOL" to the drive chart for things like missing a field goal when you finally get close to the end zone. Wait. Never mind. I'll only add it for things like fumbling at the goal line. Wait again. Moving on.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conf Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 18 242.50 Army 399.00 3 Ole Miss 259.75
Passing Offense 28 287.50 Marshall 383.50 3 Tennessee 341.25
Total Offense 13 530.00 Oklahoma St. 686.67 1 Georgia 530.00
Scoring Offense 9 47.50 Oklahoma St. 62.33 1 Georgia 47.50
Passing Efficiency 9 178.49 TCU 208.31 2 Alabama 187.68
Sacks Allowed 42 1.50 Oklahoma St. .00 4 Mississippi St. .50

Offensive observations. Georgia leads the best league in college football in Total and Scoring Offense. They're also top 10 in Passing Efficiency, top 20 in Rushing Offense, and top 30 in Passing Offense. Balance, y'all.

Looking for hope? Schedule.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conf Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 49 135.50 Stanford 41.33 8 LSU 56.75
Pass Efficiency Defense 48 121.01 Texas Tech 79.28 9 Florida 88.32
Total Defense 43 343.25 Texas Tech 160.33 8 Alabama 185.00
Scoring Defense 29 16.50 TCU 4.33 7 Alabama 5.25
Pass Defense 43 207.75 Texas Tech 85.00 6 Alabama 122.75
Sacks T-58 2.00 Texas A&M 5.33 8 Texas A&M 5.33
Tackles For Loss 29 7.25 Tulsa 9.75 6 LSU 8.50

Defensive observations. Georgia's defense to date is top quartile in Scoring Defense and Tackles for Loss. I was a bit surprised to find that the rest of the defense is currently ranking just above the middle of the road. With Tennessee's passing offense, it looks like Georgia's passing defense is the point of attack. Of course, having safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree back into the starting lineup may change all of that.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Conf Leader Actual
Net Punting 105 33.29 Texas 49.40 14 Texas A&M 47.21
Punt Returns 53 9.46 Kansas St. 36.25 7 Missouri 23.18
Kickoff Returns 33 23.92 Rutgers 45.00 6 Auburn 31.50
Turnover Margin T-58 .00 Mississippi St. 3.25 9 Mississippi St. 3.25

Special teams and turnovers observations. There doesn't appear to be anything of too much concern here. They're best at returning kickoffs, but we're also good at covering them. And perhaps Devrin Young will get a real chance to return a punt for a big gain this week.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Todd Gurley T-27 101.50
Keith Marshall T-97 66.00
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Aaron Murray 8 182.43
Total Offense Aaron Murray T-38 273.25
Todd Gurley 101.50
Receptions Per Game Marlon Brown T-64 5.33
Michael Bennett T-91 4.75
Tavarres King 3.50
Receiving Yards Per Game Marlon Brown T-30 88.00
Michael Bennett 69 68.75
Tavarres King 77 67.25
Scoring Todd Gurley T-13 10.50
Marshall Morgan T-63 8.00
Marlon Brown 6.00

Offensive Observations. Aaron Murray is the real thing. Todd Gurley is a man (and freshman RB Keith Marshall appears to be a solid backup). Marlon Brown appears to be Murray's favorite target, but with Michael Bennett and Tavarres King also ranking nationally in the passing game, Brown's a long ways away from Murray's only target.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Jarvis Jones T-61 .33
Amarlo Herrera .25
Sacks Jarvis Jones T-4 1.50
Jordan Jenkins T-91 .50
Tackles Jarvis Jones T-92 8.00
Amarlo Herrera 7.50
Shawn Williams 7.25
Michael Gilliard 6.25
Tackles For Loss Jarvis Jones 3 2.50

Defense. If you watched the Missouri game, you know that Jarvis Jones is a one-man wrecking crew. He's particularly good at wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Fortunately, Tennessee is pretty good at pass protection. But it's not just Jones, it's Amarlo Herrera, Shawn Williams, and Michael Gilliard, too. And don't forget that the lineup's now going to include for the first time in 2012 Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree. The entire unit looks solid.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Collin Barber 64 40.67
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Damian Swann 57 7.40
Malcolm Mitchell T-61 7.00
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Todd Gurley 8 34.71
Field Goals Marshall Morgan T-76 .75
All-Purpose Runners Todd Gurley 11 164.25
Marlon Brown 88.00

Special teams. Oh, they have Gurley returning kicks, which explains why they're good at that. Nice. We'll need to cover as well as we usually do, and we'll just need our regular game in the other special teams areas.

Head to Head Comparisons

Tennessee Logo Georgia Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. Georgia rush defense 172.50
(#57)
135.50
(#49)
NC State/Florida
119/119.25
(#35/#36)
191/83 130
UT pass v. Georgia pass defense 341.25
(#8)
207.75
(#43)
NC State
206.75
(#40)
333 330
Georgia rush v. UT rush defense 164.25
(#74)
242.50
(#18)
Florida
224.50
(#26)
336 250
Georgia pass v. UT pass defense 228
(#66)
287.50
(#28)
Akron
340.75
(#9)
229 230
UT scoring offense v. Georgia scoring defense 38.25
(#23)
16.50
(#29)
NC State
15.75
(#27)
35 31
Georgia scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 24.25
(#61)
47.50
(#9)
Akron
36
(#32)
26 38

Again with the caveats: These are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations, and this early in the season, the guesses are particularly sketchy. But here's the general analytical framework: 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. And one more time for emphasis: 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 putting up just over 340 yards average through the air. Georgia's defense is holding opponents to about 208. That's pretty close to what N.C. State is doing, and against the Wolf Pack, we put up closer to our average than theirs. Therefore, my guess is only a little off our average, 330 passing yards.

So mashing the numbers a bit, I have 460 yards for the Vols and 480 for the Bulldogs. The scoring numbers, though, and the way those yards are distributed (more rush than pass for Georgia and the opposite for Tennessee) suggest that neither the Vols nor the Dawgs will score their average points. But Georgia is scoring quite a bit more and has a wider margin of error. So I'm going with 38-31, Georgia.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Georgia's stats so far this season appear to be more impressive than Tennessee's, but they have been compiled against a schedule that appears to be weaker than Tennessee's, at least to some degree.
  • Georgia's secret sauce seems to be balance. They're top 30 in both Rushing Offense and Passing Offense, and the balance is almost certainly the reason for their Total and Scoring Offense both being top 15. Their defense doesn't rank as well as their offense, but it's still above average.
  • With a lot of teams, you can point to just a single guy or a group of two as the thing that makes the team go. Not so with Georgia, whose offense is run by terrific QB Aaron Murray (who can not only pass but can hurt you on the ground if necessary), excellent running back Todd Gurley, and a trio of very good wide receivers. Same goes for the defense. They're strong almost everywhere, although they do have a star on that side of the ball in Jarvis Jones as well.
  • Both teams figure to put up a lot of yards and a lot of points, although they probably won't hit their high averages.

Predictions

  • Georgia 38, Tennessee 31
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