First things first. We're finishing this drill of tracking the Vols' statistical rankings for the entire season. You're tired of it, I'm tired of it, but we have two games left, and so we finish. At this point, I'm less interested in where we stand right now or even the in-season trends than I am in how we now compare to last year in the defensive numbers. Unfortunately, that news isn't good.
Second, Tennessee now owns the second most difficult schedule in college football this season behind only Purdue, which is 1-9. And I'll again point out that the Boilermakers' schedule includes only the following ranked opponents (at the time of the game): #21 Notre Dame, #24 Wisconsin, and #4 Ohio State. (The NCAA ranks schedule difficulty by past and future opponent win-loss records, not by ranking.) That's one Top 5 team and two additional Top 25 teams. Tennessee's schedule features two Top 5 teams (on the road), three additional Top 10 teams, a Top 15 team (which we beat), and one additional Top 20 team. And we're 4-6. Georgia, a preseason national title contender at #5 in the nation, has the nation's fourth most difficult schedule, and they're 6-4 (and if you say they're a Hail Mary-ish play away from 7-3, I'll remind you that they're also a Pig Howard inch away from 5-5). Mississippi State is 5th, and they're also 4-6. If someone wants to do a FanPost with an analysis of the records of the teams with the most difficult schedules, I'll front page it (if it's written well). The NCAA's schedule rankings are here.
So yeah, schedule matters. It can steal the national title hopes away from really good teams, and it can absolutely demoralize teams trying to rebuild. It also has an impact on the statistical rankings below. It's one thing to build something; it's another to try to build it during a hurricane.
With that context in mind, let's take a look at where the team stands in the statistical rankings.
What Tennessee is doing well
I lied about not being interested in the in-season trends. I think that the penalty categories, which have gotten progressively worse as the season has progressed, tell the story and are the probably the consequence of one or more of the forms of exhaustion. It's symptomatic.
Other than that, I think we can safely say that Tennessee is (1) better in the red zone this year than last on defense, and (2) more opportunistic (and probably more aggressive) in the passing game. Passing Yards Allowed may be a little better than last year, but don't be fooled by that 24 this week. That's a mere consequence of playing Auburn and not being able to stop their run game.
|Categories in which Tennessee is in the Top 30|
|Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game||51||67||-||2||4||3||4||10||9||9||9||13||14|
|Red Zone Defense||47||115||-||5||19||30||26||24||24||20||22||21||18|
|Pass Sacks Allowed||40||5||23||18||5||11||19||25||21||23||19||19||19|
|Passing Yards Allowed||12||111||17||38||102||80||82||78||78||63||70||56||24|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game||56||92||-||1||3||2||8||17||18||21||16||25||26|
New Arrivals: Passing Yards Allowed
Dropped out: Kickoff Returns (from 23 to 34), Net Punting (from 26 to 57), Punt Return Defense (from 27 to 95!)
Where Tennessee needs major improvement
Oy, this chart is killing me. Most of this is offense, and the 2012 green that's turned red is a consequence of losing Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jim Chaney. But the defensive categories are what's really problematic. Pass Sacks, Scoring Defense, and Total Defense are actually not much, if any, better than last year, which was (we thought) historically bad.
Fun observation: Punt Return Defense went from green straight to red ths week, thanks to the group hypnosis the punt coverage unit suffered against Auburn. Gus Malzahn, Mesmerizer.
|Categories in which Tennessee is in the Bottom 30|
|4th Down Conversion Pct Defense||48||86||34||70||113||105||91||107||105||111||119||119||120|
|Kickoff Return Defense||7||47||76||77||78||88||76||76||76||73||95||93||117|
|Passing Yards per Completion||102||90||103||105||105||102||102||105||101||109||115|
|Team Passing Efficiency||69||31||25||46||72||100||100||100||103||106||110||112||113|
|Team Tackles for Loss||67||48||38||29||55||56||81||72||72||65||89||100||108|
|Team Pass Sacks||100||98||41||48||50||77||92||101||101||75||93||105||105|
|First Downs Offense||98||20||12||26||43||65||35||41||86||78||83||83||104|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct||56||81||13||26||52||56||58||59||61||70||82||93||102|
|Passes Had Intercepted||63||83||1||39||17||99||112||107||99||87||96||102||100|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense||57||50||10||60||81||103||96||89||91||79||93||101||98|
|Punt Return Defense||85||67||2||43||93||80||59||33||34||30||31||27||95|
New Arrivals: First Downs Offense, Scoring Defense, Punt Return Defense, Total Defense
Climbed out: Turnovers Lost (from 101 to 81), First Downs Defense (from 94 to 78)
THE BIG FAT MIDDLE
And here's the rest, for tracking purposes.
|Categories in which Tennessee is in the Middle of the Rankings|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed||38||9||54||29||7||11||4||4||3||34||22||31||31|
|4th Down Conversion Pct||91||80||-||-||
|Team Passing Efficiency Defense||14||10||71||72||36||37||38||27||49||58||58|
|Red Zone Offense||58||29||1||59||52||63||68||73||75||59||51||65||59|
|First Downs Defense||18||86||8||39||83||88||98||106||68||70||
|Time of Possession||37||116||55||70||45||84||85||78||82||70||82||92||85|
Players in the Top 30
Rajion Neal indeed lost his last spot in the Top 30 for Rushing TDs this week. That leaves our punter, Michael Palardy, as the MVP of the team. Palardy even added a Top 30 category this week with Field Goal Percentage.
|Devaun Swafford||Punt Return TDs||5||5||6||6||6||10|
|Michael Palardy||Field Goal Percentage||27|
|Rajion Neal||Rushing TDs||28||12||21||22||19||28|
|Rajion Neal||Rushing Yards||19||11||19||24||26|
|Rajion Neal||Rushing Yards Per Game||15||25||23||26|
|Max Arnold||Fumbles Recovered||23||25|
|Vincent Dallas||Kickoff Returns||12|
|Dontavis Sapp||Fumbles Recovered||23|
|Brent Brewer||Forced Fumbles||24|
|Dontavis Sapp||Forced Fumbles||24|
|Rajion Neal||Rushing Yards||15||27|
|Justin Worley||Passing Efficiency||28|
|Justin Worley||Points Responsible For||13|
|Devrin Young||Punt Returns||28||21|
|Daniel Hood||Passes Defended||21|
|Marlon Walls||Tackles For Loss||30|
|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|