Tennessee Vols at Florida Gators: Statistical game preview

Boulder. Big, dumb, dangerous. - Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Although this isn't the Florida offense of old, they're still poised to beat the Vols this year unless they decide to beat themselves.

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.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • This is not Steve Spurrier's or Urban Meyer's Florida offense. It's not exactly the Clawfense, either, but forget what you know about Florida offenses.
  • Remember everything you know about Florida defenses, because this one is again very, very good, which is not good news for an offense in search of a second dimension. Best bet is to run the ball and hope for the best.
  • Florida's special teams might not be quite as potent as they once where, but there is still plenty of danger there.
  • Turnovers, which can always influence the outcomes of games, may play an even more important role here. Tennessee doesn't give them up much and has shown an ability to generate them on defense, and Florida has shown an inclination to give them up. It's what cost them the game against Miami, and it could cost them again. The key for Tennessee will be to make the most of them before the play is over and the Gator defense gets back on the field.

Predictions

  • Florida 24, Tennessee 17

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Florida Logo
Toledo Rockets 8/31/13 win 24 - 6 coverage
Miami Hurricanes 9/7/13 loss 16 - 21 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

We've played one more game, so we must be better. Let's try this: We have one more win, so we must be better. Still not really resonating, is it?

Seriously, though, Florida's Truth lies somewhere between an unimpressive win over a Who's That team, and Tennessee's Truth lies somewhere between a blowout win over a Who's That and getting Ducktrucked against Oregon. Even Florida's Miami game and Tennessee's Western Kentucky games come loaded with asterisks of the multiple turnover variety. So I'll just leave this here and let you come to your own darn conclusions, okay?

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Offense (123 ranked) 54 12 192.0 Navy 398.0 Arkansas 294.3
Passing Offense (123 ranked) 71 10 222.0 Oregon St. et al 438.7 Texas A&M 416.0
Total Offense (123 ranked) 64 11 414.0 Baylor 736.5 Texas A&M 609.3
Scoring Offense (123 ranked) 98 14 20.0 Baylor 69.5 Texas A&M 53.0
Team Passing Efficiency (123 ranked) 49 9 143.45 Baylor 253.38 LSU 205.10
Passing Yards per Completion (123 ranked) 74 13 11.38 Navy 23.69 LSU 17.57
Pass Sacks Allowed (123 ranked) 72 9 2.00 Georgia Tech 0.00 LSU et al 0.67
Red Zone Offense (122 ranked) 122 14 0.500 Air Force et al
1.000 Auburn 1.000

Offensive observations. No wonder Spencer was banging his head against his Skype screen on the Rocky Top Talk podcast last night. For a team and fan culture founded on the high-flying offensive exploits of one Steve Spurrier, an offense ranking in double digits in most categories in the SEC must be depressing. And because we have eight years to make up for, I have an irresistible compulsion to list them all here in bullet form:

  • 12th in the SEC in Rushing Offense
  • 10th in the SEC in Passing Offense
  • 11th in the SEC in Total Offense
  • 14th in the SEC in Scoring Offense
  • 13th in the SEC in Passing Yards per Completion
  • 14th in the SEC in Red Zone Offense

Feel better? (Not really.)

Conclusions? This is not Steve Spurrier's or Urban Meyer's Florida offense. But remember, all things in football are relative and tend to change depending on the opponent you're playing. This is a somewhat surprisingly even matchup between Florida's offense and Tennessee's defense.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Defense (123 ranked) 3 1 50.0 Texas St. 34.0 Florida 50.0
Passing Yards Allowed (123 ranked) 16 3 158.5 Washington St. 99.7 Arkansas 147.7
Team Passing Efficiency Defense (123 ranked) 12 1 92.43 Michigan St. 68.14 Florida 92.43
Total Defense (123 ranked) 3 1 208.5 Michigan St. 177.0 Florida 208.5
Scoring Defense (123 ranked) 17 2 13.5 Georgia Tech 7.0 Arkansas 12.7
Team Pass Sacks (119 ranked) 78 7 1.50 Maryland 4.67 South Carolina 3.33
Team Tackles for Loss (123 ranked) 35 4 7.0 Baylor 13.0 South Carolina 9.3

Defensive observations. Okay, this is more like what we're used to seeing. A Rushing Defense and Total Defense ranked third in the country. A passing game defense that ranks basically in the top 15. Looking at their tackles for loss and sacks stats, it appears that they can get behind the line of scrimmage, but don't generally get the QB. Huh. In any event, with our offensive line being especially adept at pass blocking, I'm not too concerned with that. It's being able to run the ball against a team allowing only 50 yards per game when they realize the Tennessee offense is one dimensional, which (let's be honest) has already happened.

Conclusions? Run the ball and hope for the best, the best being frustratingly few yards or points.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Net Punting (123 ranked) 48 9 38.50 Navy 56.00 Texas A&M 49.29
Punt Returns (122 ranked) 22 3 15.00 Kansas St. 31.67 Ole Miss 29.67
Kickoff Returns (123 ranked) 50 8 22.25 Rutgers 43.67 Mississippi St. 39.80
Turnover Margin (121 ranked) 118 14 -2.0 Texas St. 3.0 Missouri
Tennessee
2.0
2.0
Fewest Penalties Per Game (123 ranked) 119 14 10.00 Stanford 1.50 Tennessee 2.00
Fewest Penatly Yards Per Game (123 ranked) 107 13 70.00 Arizona St. 10.00 Tennessee 19.00

Special teams and turnovers observations. Who still has nightmares about Florida players returning punts and/or kickoffs for TDs against Tennessee? (Raises hand and decides counting other hands would take too long.) The numbers say that that threat is somewhat diminished this year, but how much does that help your feelings of anxiety? Right.

Here's something to maybe perhaps sorta kinda feel good about, though. Gators giving gifts. They've given up six turnovers in two games. Have we and they used up our rations in this category? For the Gators' part, Spencer says no, that giving up turnovers is part of this team's identity and that we can count on them giving up another 2-3 per game. But I'm not counting on it.

Conclusions? Based primarily on the recent history of these two teams, Michael Palardy should be instructed to punt away from the return guy. And we may get some turnovers, but we should make the most of them before the play is over and the Gator defense retakes the field.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Yards Per Game (298 ranked) Mack Brown
Valdez Showers
73
283
70.5
29.0
Passing Efficiency (113 ranked) Jeff Driskel 50 143.4
Passing Yards (135 ranked) Jeff Driskel 83 444
Passing Yards Per Game (135 ranked) Jeff Driskel 47 222.0
Passing Yards per Completion (113 ranked) Jeff Driskel 63 11.38
Total Offense (299 ranked) Jeff Driskel
Mack Brown
51
193
241.0
70.5
Receiving Yards Per Game (395 ranked) Solomon Patton
Trey Burton
Quinton Dunbar
82
91
117
69.5
66.5
60.0
Receptions Per Game (385 ranked) Trey Burton
Quinton Dunbar
Solomon Patton
Valdez Showers
62
113
189
314
5.5
4.5
3.5
2.5
Scoring (148 ranked) Mack Brown 148 6.0

Offensive Observations. The first thing to notice here is that no player is in the top 45 in any offensive category. Mack Brown is getting only 70 yards per game. Jeff Driskel is getting 222 passing yards per game. It does look like Driskel spreads completions well to four different receivers, with Trey Burton being the favorite target. But Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton, and Valdez Showers are all active and involved.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions (87 ranked) Vernon Hargreaves 1 1.0
Pass Sacks (61 ranked) Ronald Powell 13 1.0
Solo Tackles (72 ranked)
Tackles For Loss (83 ranked) Ronald Powell 9 2.0
Total Tackles (391 ranked)

Defense. Defensive back Vernon Hargreaves has one pick in each of the two games he's played so far this year, and linebacker Ronald Powell is getting one sack and two TFLs per game. The rest of the Gators' highly-ranked defense appears to be a strong team effort, because no other players really show up on the national rankings charts.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punt Returns (78 ranked) Marcus Roberson 17 14.5
Punting (84 ranked) Kyle Christy 59 40.4
Kickoff Returns (114 ranked) Solomon Patton 49 22.3
Field Goals Per Game (109 ranked) Austin Hardin 59 1.0
All Purpose (249 ranked) Solomon Patton 58 124.50

Special teams. Spencer mentioned Solomon Patton last night as a threat on special teams (my old ears heard "Solemn Patton," which should be his real name), so let's hope Palardy can get back to forcing touchbacks on a more consistent basis. But it looks like Marcus Roberson may be an even bigger threat on punt returns. Fortunately, it's easier to punt out of bounds than it is to kick into the end zone. Unfortunately, giving up a special teams touchdown to Florida is a rite of passage for all new Tennessee coaches. I know that some lessons have to be learned personally, but is it too much to ask for Butch Jones to please, please, please learn vicariously just this once? (No, I haven't confirmed with research that either Dooley or Kiffin actually gave up special teams TDs to Florida. I've just been traumatized enough for it to feel that way.)

Head to Head Comparisons

Tennessee Logo Florida Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. Florida rush defense 244.3
(#29)
50
(#3)
OR
(129.7)
(#45)
178 90
UT pass v. Florida passing yards allowed 137.3
(#114)
158.5
(#16)
OR
(189.3)
(#33)
138 120
Florida rush v. UT rush defense

155.3
(#65)

192
(#54)
WKU
(177.3)
(#63)
171

200

Florida pass v. UT passing yards allowed 275
(#102)
222
(#71)
WKU
(258.3)
(#48)
222 200
UT scoring offense v. Florida scoring defense 37
(#41)
13.5
(#17)
OR
(9)
(#4)
14 17
Florida scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 26.3
(#73)
20
(#98)
WKU
(26.3)
(#79)
20 24
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 averaging 244.3 yards on the ground. Florida gives up only 50 per game, good for a national ranking of third. The closest comp is Oregon, who gives up 129.7 per game, and their ranking is 45, which isn't really all that close. Against Oregon, we ran for 178 yards, but much of that was agaisnt their backups. All of that leads to a guess of 90 yards on the ground for the Vols. That may be high.

So I have the Vols getting a total of 210 yards, which . . . wow. And ouch. But I'm sticking with it for now. The Gators get quite a few more yards -- 400 -- but only beat the Vols by a touchdown? Yeah, that's a result of their tendency to give up turnovers. The more I think about it, the game will come down to this. If they turn the ball over, we have a shot. If they don't, they could beat the Vols easily. Not Oregon easily, but easily.

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