Tennessee's statistical rankings after South Alabama

Andy Lyons

Tennessee's run game is improving and continuing to chug along despite the passing game playing the role of significant anchor around its neck. The defense is good in the red zone and at generating turnovers, but needs to improve everywhere else, especially on first downs.

Here are the Vols' national rankings in all major statistical categories after five games. Green means Top 30, red means Bottom 30, and yellow is the big, fat middle. Note the caveats before proceeding. First up is the Stuff UT is Doing Well.

What Tennessee is doing well

Tennessee is tied with Virginia Tech for 1st in the nation in Passes Intercepted. Turnovers Gained is Top 5 as well, as are Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game and Tackles for Loss Allowed. Pass Sacks Allowed is Top 20, and Red Zone Defense, Fumbles Recovered, and Kickoff Returns all stay in the Top 30 this week.

Nothing new crept into the Top 30, but one category -- Turnover Margin -- fell out to #41 from #29.

So what's it all mean? Team 117's defense can go get turnovers, whether they're fumbles or interceptions. The team is well-disciplined overall, the offensive line does not allow opposing defenses to do much damage behind them, and the defense is fairly stout in the red zone.

Categories in which Tennessee is in the Top 30
Category 2011 2012 AP WKU OR FL SA
Passes Intercepted 86 56 12 1 2 5 1
Turnovers Gained 91 95 26 1 3 3 3
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 51 67 - 2 4 3 4
Tackles for Loss Allowed 38 9 54 29 7 11 4
Fewest Penalties Per Game 56 92 - 1 3 2 8
Pass Sacks Allowed 40 5 23 18 5 11 19
Red Zone Defense 47 115 - 5 19 30 26
Fumbles Recovered 71 113 - 22 48 15 28
Kickoff Returns 41 80 1 7 19 29 28

Dropped out: Turnover Margin (41)
New Arrivals in 2013: None

Where Tennessee needs major imporovement

4th Down Conversion Pct Defense and Net Punting both crawled out of the cellar this week, but First Downs Defense fell in. This chart screams one thing, and that is that the passing game smells like rotten poultry. Passing Offense, Passes Had Intercepted, Turnovers Lost, Passing Yards per Completion, and Team Passing Efficiency are among the worst in the nation, and it's really weighing down what is actually becoming a very good rushing game (34th in the nation). Don't eat that stuff.

Categories in which Tennessee is in the Bottom 30
Category 2011 2012 AP WKU OR FL SA
Passing Offense 50 15 101 108 114 114 112
Passes Had Intercepted 63 83 1 39 17 99 112
Turnovers Lost 20 58 25 31 32 103 112
Passing Yards per Completion 102 90 103 105 105
Team Passing Efficiency 69 31 25 46 72 100 100
First Downs Defense 18 86 8 39 83 88 98
3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 57 50 10 60 81 103 96
Total Offense 104 18 51 65 78 103 93

New Arrivals: First Downs Defense
Climbed out: 4th Down Conversion Pct Defense (91), Net Punting (72)

THE BIG FAT MIDDLE

And here's the rest, for tracking purposes.

Categories in which Tennessee is in the Middle of the Rankings
Category 2011 2012 AP WKU OR FL SA
Rushing Offense 116 61 11 23 29 46 34
First Downs Offense 98 20 12 26 43 65 35
Team Passing Efficiency Defense 14 10 71 72 36
Turnover Margin 59 88 24 3 4 29 41
4th Down Conversion Pct 91 80 - -

1

43 42
Punt Returns 61 22 28 40 60 56 47
3rd Down Conversion Pct 56 81 13 26 52 56 58
Scoring Offense 106 22 20 13 41 59 59
Punt Return Defense 85 67 2 43 93 80 59
Red Zone Offense 58 29 1 59 52 63 68
Rushing Defense 69 85 19 43 65 75 71
Net Punting 104 52 7 101 104 95 72
Scoring Defense 36 104 1 15 73 73 74
Kickoff Return Defense 7 47 76 77 78 88 76
Total Defense 28 107 11 29 90 82 78
Team Tackles for Loss 67 48 38 29 55 56 81
Fumbles Lost 6 28 57 32 56 92 81
Passing Yards Allowed 12 111 17 38 102 80 82
Time of Possession 37 116 55 70 45 84 85
4th Down Conversion Pct Defense 48 86 34 70 113 105 91
Team Pass Sacks 100 98 41 48 50 77 92

Conclusions

The offense needs to focus on its strength -- the rushing game -- and get everything it can from it. It needs to either improve or avoid passing, and the choice between those two alternatives is currently vexing the coaches during games.

The defense needs to get better on first down, which should in turn improve its poor 3rd down conversion numbers. It's good in the red zone and in generating turnovers, so it appears that it can play in smaller spaces. If they can figure out how to defend the rest of the field, they could be fine. Georgia's definitely going to test them this week.

Players in the Top 30

Well, hello there, Rajion Neal, who now ranks in the Top 30 in both Rushing Yards and Rushing TDs. Brian Randolph and Michael Palardy remaind the most consistent contributors to the team.

Player Stat 2011 2012 AP WKU OR FL SA
Rajion Neal Rushing Yards 19
Brian Randolph Interceptions 3 14 25 21
Michael Palardy Punting 19 26 22
Rajion Neal Rushing TDs 28
Vincent Dallas Kickoff Returns 12
Rajion Neal Scoring 14
Dontavis Sapp Fumbles Recovered 23
Max Arnold Fumbles Recovered 23
Brent Brewer Forced Fumbles 24
Dontavis Sapp Forced Fumbles 24
Rajion Neal Rushing Yards 15 27
Justin Worley Passing Efficiency 28
Daniel Hood Interceptions 7
Malik Foreman Interceptions 7
Justin Worley Points Responsible For 13
Rajion Neal Rushing Yards Per Game 15
Devrin Young Punt Returns 28 21
Daniel Hood Passes Defended 21
Marlin Lane Scoring 21
Marlon Walls Tackles For Loss 30
A.J. Johnson Tackles 4
Byron Moore Interceptions 13
Cordarrelle Patterson Kickoff Returns 14
Cordarrelle Patterson All-Purpose Runners 16
Tyler Bray Total Offense 19
Justin Hunter Receiving Yards Per Game 22
Tyler Bray Passing Efficiency 29
Austin Johnson Interceptions 23
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