Tennessee Vols vs. Georgia Bulldogs: statistical game preview

Scott Cunningham

Georgia's defense is perhaps not as strong as you might think, but can Tennessee's offense take advantage? Either way, the Bulldogs' passing attack under Aaron Murray is probably going to have its way with any opponent, including the Vols this week.

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.

Head to Head Comparisons

Tennessee Logo Georgia Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. Georgia rush defense 215.4
(#34)
126.8
(#39)
FL/OR
(53.5/134.5)
(#1/#46)
66/178 160
UT pass v. Georgia passing yards allowed 154
(#112)
277
(#99)
SA
(249)
(#81)
204 220
Georgia rush v. UT rush defense

163.2
(#71)

209
(#40)
FL/SA
(211.3/158.5)
(#36/#75)
215/135 215
Georgia pass v. UT passing yards allowed 249.8
(#82)
345
(#9)
OR
(266.8)
(#38)
471 400
UT scoring offense v. Georgia scoring defense 31.8
(#59)
32.5
(#93)
SA
(29)
(#82)
31 28
Georgia scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 26.8
(#74)
41.3
(#21)
OR/WKU
(59.8/31.2)
(#2/#62)
59/20 45
Strength of Schedule 10 3
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.

When Tennessee runs the ball: The Vols are getting 215 yards on the ground per game, and Georgia is giving up 126.8. The two closest comps are Florida (53.5) and Oregon (134.5), and Georgia's numbers are obviously closer to Oregon's than Florida's. Against Oregon, we rushed for 178 yards, so my prediction of yards on the ground for UT is 160.

When Tennessee passes: We're getting 154 yards per game through the air. Georgia is actually not very good at all against the pass, allowing 277 yards per game for a national ranking of 99. It's the worse pass defense we've played. South Alabama is not only better, they're the next best comp with a national ranking of 81, giving up 249 passing yards per game. Against the Jaguars, we got 204 passing yards, so my best guess for passing yards for UT on Saturday is 220. That makes total yards 380 for the Vols. Not horrible. But . . .

When Georgia runs the ball: The Bulldogs are getting 209 yards on the ground per game, and we're giving up 163. There are comps above (Florida, with 211) and below (South Alabama, with 158.5). Those two teams got 215 and 135 on the ground against us respectively, so my prediction for the Bulldogs' ground game is 215 yards.

When Georgia passes the ball: Run for cover. Seriously, this is where it could get ugly. Tennessee is giving up 250 yards per game through the air, and Georgia is getting 345. It's the best passing offense we've faced all year, including Oregon, and it's not really even very close because Oregon gets only 267 per game. Of course, they got 471 against us. I just couldn't bring myself to predict 471 or more passing yards against us again, so I'm guessing 400. Which is still, you know, pretty bad.

On the scoreboard for Tennessee: We're averaging 31.8 points per game, and Georgia's surprisingly giving up 32.5, which is the worst scoring defense we've played so far. South Alabama is the next worst team, giving up 29, and we got 31 against them. You'd think I'd predict 31 points for the Vols, but I'm going with 28.

On the scoreboard for Georgia: We're giving up nearly 27 points per game, and Georgia's getting just over 41. There are comps on both sides (Oregon on top with 59 and Western Kentucky below with 31.2), but Georgia is closer to Oregon than Kentucky. The Ducks scored 59 on the Vols, so I'm going with 45 this weekend.

Schedule

Georgia Logo
Clemson Tigers 8/31/13 loss 35 - 38 coverage
South Carolina Gamecocks 9/7/13 win 41 - 30 coverage
North Texas Mean Green 9/21/13 win 45 - 21 coverage
LSU Tigers

9/28/13

win 44 - 41 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

You may think that the Vols' schedule is difficult, even to date, and you'd be right. But Georgia's is even stronger. The Vols' schedule currently ranks 10th in difficulty, and the Bulldogs' ranks 3rd.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Offense (123 ranked) 40 8 209.0 Oregon 332.5 Missouri 262.3
Passing Offense (123 ranked) 9 2 345.0 Baylor 444.3 Texas A&M 365.0
Total Offense (123 ranked) 6 2 554.0 Baylor 751.3 Texas A&M 586.4
Scoring Offense (123 ranked) 21 4 41.3 Baylor 69.7 Texas A&M 49.2
Team Passing Efficiency (123 ranked) 4 1 193.35 Baylor 239.63 Georgia 193.35
Passing Yards per Completion (123 ranked) 4 1 17.25 Baylor 19.90 Georgia 17.25
Passes Had Intercepted (121 ranked) 33 5 3 Clemson
Oregon
New Mexico
0
0
0
LSU 1
Pass Sacks Allowed (123 ranked) 51 7 1.50 Nebraska 0.50 Arkansas 0.60
Tackles for Loss Allowed (123 ranked) 18 4 4.25 Navy 2.67 Tennessee 3.40
Red Zone Offense (123 ranked) 38 2 0.875 6 teams tied 1.000 Auburn 0.929

Offensive observations. With all the talk about "Gurshall" -- running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- you'd think that what powered this offense is the running game. It's good, don't get me wrong, but the real danger is the passing game, which ranks 9th in the nation and, along with a 40th-ranked rushing offense, makes up a total offense ranking of 6th in the nation. All of that also accounts for a great ranking in scoring offense. Basically, these guys are very, very good on offense. The latest on Gurley's availability? Day to day.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Defense (123 ranked) 39 6 126.8 Florida 53.5 Florida 53.5
Passing Yards Allowed (123 ranked) 99 13 277.0 Michigan St. 130.5 Florida 149.0
Team Passing Efficiency Defense (123 ranked) 108 14 153.21 Michigan St. 72.63 Florida 86.15
Passes Intercepted (112 ranked) 112 13 1 Virginia Tech
Tennessee
11
11
Tennessee 11
Total Defense (123 ranked) 69 11 403.8 Michigan St. 188.8 Florida 202.5
Scoring Defense (123 ranked) 93 14 32.5 Louisville 6.8 Florida 12.8
Team Pass Sacks (123 ranked) 33 3 2.25 Memphis 4.33 Arkansas
South Carolina
3.00
3.00
Team Tackles for Loss (122 ranked) 39 4 6.8 Baylor 11.3 South Carolina 8.3
Red Zone Defense (116 ranked) 105 13 0.923 Baylor 0.444 Florida 0.667

Defensive observations. You may be surprised to learn that Georgia's defense isn't scary SEC good. The run defense is stout, but they rank 99th or worse in Passing Yards Allowed, Team Passing Efficiency Defense, Passes Intercepted, and Red Zone Defense. They can get some sacks, but when you look at Total Defense, they're ranking lower than average, and their Scoring Defense is practically abysmal. A large part of that has to do with their schedule, I'm sure.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Net Punting (123 ranked) 14 3 42.00 Kansas 45.69 Vanderbilt 43.00
Punt Returns (123 ranked) 90 10 5.14 Kansas St. 33.75 Ole Miss 23.25
Punt Return Defense (123 ranked) 28 3 4.00 Houston -2.33 LSU 1.17
Kickoff Returns (123 ranked) 101 13 18.86 Rutgers 36.88 Mississippi St. 36.67
Kickoff Return Defense (123 ranked) 106 12 24.71 La.-Monroe 11.33 Vanderbilt 14.82
Turnover Margin (123 ranked) 84 10 -0.3 Houston 2.8 Mississippi St. 1.3
Fewest Penalties Per Game (123 ranked) 70 9 6.25 Boston College 2.00 Tennessee 3.40
Fewest Penatly Yards Per Game (123 ranked) 41 8 44.25 Boston College 22.25 Tennessee 25.00

Special teams and turnovers observations. Nothing to see here, really. They punt well and cover punts well. Not so much on kickoffs. There is some opportunity for turnovers here, too, which the Vols are going to need.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Value
OFFENSE
Rushing Yards (299 ranked) Todd Gurley
Keith Marshall
21
161
450
213
Rushing Yards Per Game (300 ranked) Todd Gurley
Keith Marshall
19
152
112.5
53.3
Passing Efficiency (123 ranked) Aaron Murray 4 191.1
Passing TDs (84 ranked) Aaron Murray 11 11
Passing Yards (135 ranked) Aaron Murray 10 1,338
Passing Yards Per Game (135 ranked) Aaron Murray 4 334.5
Passing Yards per Completion (120 ranked) Aaron Murray 4 16.94
Total Offense (298 ranked) Aaron Murray
Todd Gurley
Keith Marshall
8
144
278
339.5
112.5
53.3
Receiving Yards (398 ranked) Justin Scott-Wesley
Chris Conley
Arthur Lynch
Michael Bennett
Reggie Davis
Keith Marshall
79
111
230
249
256
380
289
254
169
162
158
111
Receiving Yards Per Game (398 ranked) Justin Scott-Wesley
Chris Conley
Reggie Davis
Arthur Lynch
Michael Bennett
Keith Marshall
66
103
152
213
232
361
72.3
63.5
52.7
42.3
40.5
27.8
Receptions Per Game (400 ranked) Chris Conley
Justin Scott-Wesley
Michael Bennett
Arthur Lynch
Keith Marshall
167
187
209
273
400
3.8
3.5
3.3
2.8
2.0
Scoring (233 ranked) Todd Gurley 90 7.5

Offensive Observations. I don't really follow the Heisman Trophy, but is Aaron Murray getting any attention for it? Because he probably should. With the schedule he's played and the numbers he's putting up, well, it's impressive. And it's not so much that he's got a superstar receiver making him look good, either. No, he's the one spreading it out and making six different receivers look good. Between Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, and Murray and his receivers, this is an extremly potent offense. Maybe not so potent as Oregon, but we all know what happened at Euguene. Which stays in Eugene.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions (122 ranked) Tray Matthews 122 0.3
Pass Sacks (70 ranked) Leonard Floyd 29 0.8
Solo Tackles (56 ranked)
Tackles For Loss (52 ranked) Jordan Jenkins 52 1.3
Total Tackles (395 ranked) Ramik Wilson
Amarlo Herrera
Josh Harvey-Clemons
37
45
45
9.3
9.0
9.0

Defense. Again, defense is not this team's strength. Leonard Floyd does deserve some attention, but he'll have his hands full with this offensive line.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punt Return TDs (5 ranked)
Punt Returns (89 ranked) Damian Swann 70 5.0
Punting (91 ranked)
Kickoff Returns (129 ranked)
Field Goals Per Game (121 ranked)
All Purpose (249 ranked) Todd Gurley
Justin Scott-Wesley
Keith Marshall
58
189
196
123.00
82.00
81.00

Special teams. And again, not much to be overly concerned about here. The Bulldogs' passing attack is likely going to do enough damage on behalf of the entire team.

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