Tennessee Vols vs. South Carolina Gamecocks: statistical game preview

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The statsy preview calculator is spitting out pretty much the same thing that the Vegas bookies are. Which sets the stage for that upset we've been looking for, right?

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent from a statistics perspective. CAVEATS: You'll get tired of hearing this, but yeah, we know that small sample sets preclude concrete conclusions. One game (or even two or three) doesn't provide enough data to approach the predictive accuracy of even a Magic 8 Ball, but that doesn't mean we're not going to look at what little we have. The results from 2012 and 2011 are understandably a mixed bag, but they also suggest that it's a worthwhile endeavor.

Also, this: All of the following information is gleaned exclusively from the NCAA statistics and does not account for things like injuries, shared playing time, suspensions, and other stuff difficult to see in the stats from a bird's eye view under time constraints. We generally put the "conclusions" and "predictions" at the top of the post, with the data upon which those are based below.

Now that I have my statsy preview machine all programmed and stuff, I'm better able to easily run the thing for different teams, which also means I can run each game twice, one from each team's perspective. It matters because the comps change depending on the team from whose perspective you're viewing it. The caveats all still apply, and I will still eyeball the thing and revise predictions as I think is necessary.

Head-to-Head, from South Carolina's Perspective

South Carolina Logo Tennessee Logo Comps Result against Comps Prediction
Closest Lower Closest Higher Closest Lower Closest Higher
Team Team Team Team
Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value
South Carolina rushing offense vs. Tennessee rushing defense 19 225.67 81 175.67 North Carolina Vanderbilt North Carolina Vanderbilt 224
102 197 76 168.5 228 220
South Carolina passing offense vs. Tennessee passing defense 44 260.8 79 240.8 Georgia North Carolina Georgia North Carolina 203
97 259.3 73 238.8 228 178
South Carolina rushing defense vs. Tennessee rushing offense 43 142.83 30 211 Georgia Arkansas Georgia Arkansas 223
34 206.33 24 216.29 227 218
South Carolina passing defense vs. Tennessee passing offense 29 202.7 113 164.2 Arkansas Kentucky Arkansas Kentucky 104
115 154.6 96 201.5 30 178
South Carolina scoring offense vs. Tennessee scoring defense 38 34.5 75 28 Kentucky Arkansas Kentucky Arkansas 44
86 29.3 72 27.6 35 52
South Carolina scoring defense vs. Tennessee scoring offense 39 22.7 51 31.7 North Carolina UCF North Carolina UCF 24
93 23.6 50 31.8 10 25
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.

Head-to-Head, from Tennessee's Perspective

Tennessee Logo South Carolina Logo Comps Result against Comps Prediction
Closest Lower Closest Higher Closest Lower Closest Higher
Team Team Team Team
Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value
Tennessee rushing offense vs. South Carolina rushing defense 30 211 43 142.83 South Alabama Georgia South Alabama Georgia 234
48 146.2 37 139.67 278 189
Tennessee passing offense vs. South Carolina passing defense 113 164.2 29 202.7 Georgia Oregon Georgia Oregon 140
97 259.3 27 201 215 138
Tennessee rushing defense vs. South Carolina rushing offense 81 175.67 19 225.67 Western Kentucky Oregon Western Kentucky Oregon 180
26 214.33 3 324 171 216
Tennessee passing defense vs. South Carolina passing offense 79 240.8 44 260.8 Western Kentucky South Alabama Western Kentucky South Alabama 220
46 259.3 25 288.6 222 257
Tennessee scoring offense vs. South Carolina scoring defense 51 31.7 39 22.7 Western Kentucky Oregon Western Kentucky Oregon 33
47 23.8 6 13.8 52 14
Tennessee scoring defense vs. South Carolina scoring offense 75 28 38 34.5 Western Kentucky Georgia Western Kentucky Georgia 27
53 31.2 27 37.5 20 34

When Tennessee runs the ball: We're getting about 200 yards per game, and SC is allowing about 140. That's right in line with Georgia and South Alabama, against whom we got 189 and 278 respectively. The closet comps to our rushing offense from their perspective are Georgia and Arkansas, who they held to 227 and 218. So a prediction of about 230 yards on the ground may be a little high, but doesn't seem out of the question.

When Tennessee passes: We're getting a measly 164 yards through the air per game. They're allowing 203, which most closely resembles Oregon against whom we got 138. The result of the analysis from their perspective is 104, so my prediction is 120 passing yards.

When South Carolina runs the ball: We're holding opponents to 176 yards on the ground per game. They're getting 226, which is closest to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers got 171 against us, so the result there is 180. From their perspective, the result is 224, so splitting the difference gives us 200 yards on the ground for the Gamecocks.

When South Carolina passes the ball: Our passing defense gives up 240 yards per game (thanks, Oregon!), and SC gets 261. Again, Western Kentucky is the closest comp, and they got 222 against us. The result from SC's perspective is 203. Prediction: 210 passing yards for SC.

On the scoreboard for Tennessee: We put up almost 32 points per game. They hold opponents to 23. Western Kentucky is once again the closest comp, and we got 52 on them, but that seems a bit screwy. Good thing it's averaged out with the Oregon score and ends up 33. From their perspective, the result is 24. Prediction: 28, which may be a bit high.

On the scoreboard for South Carolina: We're holding opponents to 28 points per game. The Gamecocks are getting almost 35, right between Western Kentucky and Georgia, who scored 20 and 34 points against us. That gives us 27. Their perspective gives them a much different result of 44 points. Splitting the difference gives us 35 for SC, but this is an especially flimsy prediction.

Compiled Predictions

South Carolina's Perspective Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
South Carolina 44 224 203 427
Tennessee 24 223 104 327

Tennessee's Perspective Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 33 234 140 374
South Carolina 27 180 220 400

Combining the Two Perspectives Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 28 230 120 350
South Carolina 35 200 210 410

Taking all of that together, it's looking a lot like the current spread. I still think, like Will and I discussed on last night's podcast, that this is an excellent opportunity for the Vols to grab a relatively big upset. Working against that is the fact that South Carolina seems to have found its stride along with some extra motivation now that the SEC East is back up for grabs. Still, I think it's going to be a good game.

Schedule

South Carolina Logo
North Carolina Tar Heels 8/29/13 win 27 - 10 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 9/7/13 loss 30 - 41 coverage
Vanderbilt Commodores 9/14/13 win 35 - 25 coverage
Central Florida Knights

9/28/13

win 28 - 25 coverage
Kentucky Wildcats 10/5/13 win 35 - 28 coverage
Arkansas Razorbacks 10/12/13 win 52 - 7 coverage
Tennessee Logo
Austin Peay Governors 8/31/13 win 45 - 0 coverage
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 9/7/13 win 52 - 20 coverage
Oregon Ducks 9/14/13 loss 14 - 59 coverage
Florida Gators 9/21/13 loss 17 - 31 coverage
South Alabama Jaguars

9/28/13

win 31 - 24 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 10/5/13 loss 31 - 34 coverage

I've been saying it for awhile, but that schedule for South Carolina isn't all that impressive, with the exception of Georgia. And they lost to Georgia.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Offense (123 ranked) 19 3 225.7 Army 352.3 Auburn 287.0
Passing Offense (123 ranked) 44 6 260.8 Oregon St. 433.2 Texas A&M 361.8
Total Offense (123 ranked) 23 4 486.5 Baylor 715.4 Texas A&M 586.5
Scoring Offense (123 ranked) 38 6 34.5 Baylor 63.4 Texas A&M 47.8
Team Passing Efficiency (123 ranked) 14 5 159.69 Baylor 221.36 LSU 184.11
Passing Yards per Completion (123 ranked) 25 5 13.73 Baylor 20.71 LSU 16.25
Passes Had Intercepted (122 ranked) 4 1 2 Houston
New Mexico
Army
1
1
1
South Carolina
LSU
Kentucky
2
2
2
Pass Sacks Allowed (123 ranked) 54 8 1.67 Toledo
Northern Ill.
Nebraska
0.50
0.50
0.50
Auburn 0.67
Tackles for Loss Allowed (123 ranked) 22 5 4.50 Navy 2.80 Tennessee 3.50
Red Zone Offense (123 ranked) 61 7 0.833 Iowa St.
Rice
Connecticut
1.000
1.000
1.000
LSU 0.882

Offensive observations. They're efficient and not mistake-prone through the air and really good on the ground.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Defense (123 ranked) 44 5 142.8 Michigan St. 58.0 Florida 83.3
Passing Yards Allowed (123 ranked) 29 4 202.7 Miami (FL) 141.4 Florida 152.0
Team Passing Efficiency Defense (123 ranked) 93 12 139.60 Miami (FL) 83.08 Florida 85.52
Passes Intercepted (119 ranked) 77 6 5 Virginia Tech
Northwestern
Missouri
13
13
13
Missouri 13
Total Defense (123 ranked) 23 3 345.5 Michigan St. 228.3 Florida 235.3
Scoring Defense (123 ranked) 39 5 22.7 Louisville 7.3 Alabama 11.3
Team Pass Sacks (123 ranked) 41 5 2.33 Clemson 4.00 Arkansas 2.86
Team Tackles for Loss (123 ranked) 42 5 6.5 Clemson 10.2 Auburn 8.2
Red Zone Defense (120 ranked) 61 7 0.826 Bowling Green 0.500 Florida 0.692

Defensive observations. The total defense ranking is very good, but it seems to be from a balanced effort. Basically, they're just very solid all the way around, but not spectacular at any particular thing.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Net Punting (123 ranked) 122 14 31.38 Memphis 45.13 Vanderbilt 41.70
Punt Returns (123 ranked) 90 11 5.43 Boise St. 26.71 Ole Miss 19.60
Punt Return Defense (123 ranked) 104 13 12.00 Houston -2.25 LSU 0.75
Kickoff Returns (123 ranked) 111 14 18.06 Miami (FL) 33.08 Mississippi St. 31.25
Kickoff Return Defense (123 ranked) 56 7 20.71 La.-Monroe 12.00 Vanderbilt 14.82
Turnover Margin (123 ranked) 64 10 0.0 Houston 2.8 Missouri 1.5
Fewest Penalties Per Game (123 ranked) 42 6 5.33 Navy 2.80 Auburn 4.17
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game (123 ranked) 34 5 41.00 Tulsa 20.83 Tennessee 32.00

Special teams and turnovers observations. Hmm. Somebody doesn't think special teams is as important as offense or defense. We could have an advantage here.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Value
OFFENSE
Rushing Yards (299 ranked) Mike Davis
Connor Shaw
10
134
742
319
Rushing Yards Per Game (300 ranked) Mike Davis
Connor Shaw
Brandon Wilds
10
136
273
123.7
53.2
28.0
Passing Efficiency (114 ranked) Connor Shaw 7 172.8
Passing TDs (105 ranked) Connor Shaw 41 10
Passing Yards (135 ranked) Connor Shaw
Dylan Thompson
66
135
1,146
416
Passing Yards Per Game (135 ranked) Connor Shaw
Dylan Thompson
74
118
191.0
83.2
Passing Yards per Completion (114 ranked) Connor Shaw 32 13.48
Total Offense (299 ranked) Connor Shaw
Mike Davis
Dylan Thompson
50
125
162
244.2
123.7
87.6
Receiving Yards (400 ranked) Bruce Ellington
Damiere Byrd
Nick Jones
Mike Davis
Shaq Roland
123
190
301
310
371
332
263
191
185
161
Receiving Yards Per Game (400 ranked) Bruce Ellington
Damiere Byrd
Nick Jones
Mike Davis
131
198
302
311
55.3
43.8
31.8
30.8
Receptions Per Game (380 ranked) Bruce Ellington
Nick Jones
Damiere Byrd
Mike Davis
177
230
303
303
3.5
3.0
2.5
2.5
Scoring (245 ranked) Mike Davis
Elliott Fry
23
98
9.0
7.2

Offensive Observations. Running back Mike Davis is terrific. Really, really good. And Connor Shaw is efficient and effective. Shaw spreads it around well to several different receivers, so everyone will have to cover their own guy or area and not get distracted.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions (155 ranked) Victor Hampton
Jimmy Legree
68
68
0.3
0.3
Pass Sacks (73 ranked) Kelcy Quarles 36 0.7
Solo Tackles (57 ranked)
Tackles For Loss (36 ranked)
Total Tackles (390 ranked)

Defense. Everyone knows about Clowney. Well, everyone but the NCAA national statistical rankings database.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punt Return TDs (5 ranked)
Punt Returns (74 ranked)
Punting (95 ranked)
Kickoff Returns (106 ranked) Shon Carson 101 17.8
Field Goals Per Game (121 ranked) Elliott Fry 59 1.0
All Purpose (249 ranked) Mike Davis
Bruce Ellington
13
208
154.50
76.33

Special teams. This chart almost ended up entirely blank. But the Gamecocks do have Mike Davis and a field goal kicker.

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