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Tennessee Volunteers at Ole Miss Rebels: game preview

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A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts and links to SB Nation game pages.

This is a long post full of moving pictures and stats, so I'm putting the conclusions and predictions both at the beginning and at the end.

Conclusions

  • Against common opponents, Tennessee has fared better than Ole Miss. We beat Memphis worse and played Alabama and Auburn better. The Rebels' best victory this season came against Arkansas. We got ours against South Carolina, a team to which Ole Miss lost.
  • Much like Tennessee (discounting the recent trend), Ole Miss is middle-of-the-pack on offense but very good on defense. They're especially good at pressuring the QB and stopping plays before they can get across the line of scrimmage.
  • The keys to the game for Tennessee will be winning the line of scrimmage on offense and balancing the defense to stop McCluster's big-play ability and Snead's potential as a good passer.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 13, Ole Miss 12

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Ole Miss Logo
@ Memphis Tigers 9/6/09 win 45 - 14
SE Louisiana Lions 9/19/09 win 52 - 6
@ South Carolina Gamecocks 9/24/09 loss 10 - 16
@ Vanderbilt Commodores 10/3/09 win 23 - 7
Alabama Crimson Tide 10/10/09 loss 3 - 22
UAB Blazers 10/17/09 win 48 - 13
Arkansas Razorbacks 10/24/09 win 30 - 17
@ Auburn Tigers 10/31/09 loss 20 - 33
Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 11/7/09 win 38 - 14

 

Rather than post all of the Rebels' drive charts, I decided to compare those of Ole Miss and Tennessee against common opponents. Up first is Memphis. Both games were blowouts, but ours was front-loaded (which is better, right?) and more blowout-y:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

They lost to South Carolina, and we dominated, although we were pretty fortunate with the turnovers:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Both teams played fairly well in losses to Alabama and mostly kept the Tide out of the end zone (although the Rebels' let 'em have one). Ole Miss, though, threw four interceptions to our one, and the Tide pulled away from the Rebs at the end but the Vols pulled closer:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Both teams lost to Auburn, but we both held the Tigers to fewer points and scored more:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

National Unit Rankings

Now on to the national rankings.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category
National
Rank
Actual
National
Leader
Actual
Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Rushing Offense
40
172.44
Nevada
319.13
6
Florida
240.67
Passing Offense
57
223.56
Houston
433.67
4
Arkansas
299.44
Total Offense
51
396.00
Houston
577.89
6
Auburn
450.30
Scoring Offense
38
29.89
Houston
42.11
6
Arkansas
35.56
Passing Efficiency
72
126.00
Cincinnati
171.84
9
Florida
159.46
Sacks Allowed
T-34
1.33
La.-Lafayette
.44
5
Alabama
1.00

 

Offensive observations. Smack dab in the middle of the pack in the SEC and slightly above average nationally in every offensive category except passing efficiency, where they're in the bottom quarter.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category
National
Rank
Actual
National
Leader
Actual
Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Rushing Defense
58
136.44
Texas
55.33
7
Alabama
68.22
Pass Efficiency Defense
14
100.02
Florida
85.86
3
Florida
85.86
Total Defense
25
317.22
Texas
230.78
6
Florida
232.44
Scoring Defense
12
15.78
Florida
10.11
4
Florida
10.11
Pass Defense
23
180.78
Air Force
127.20
7
Florida
134.44
Sacks
16
2.78
Pittsburgh
4.33
2
Alabama
2.89
Tackles For Loss
26
7.00
Cincinnati
8.89
2
Alabama
7.33

 

Defensive observations. Sort of all over the board here. Extremely good at disrupting the opponent's backfield and pass effficiency defense, good at keeping points off the board, and average (in the SEC, anyway) in rush, pass, and total defense. Their primary vulnerability appears to be against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category
National
Rank
Actual
National
Leader
Actual
Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Net Punting
62
35.74
Georgia
43.95
5
Georgia
43.95
Punt Returns
58
9.37
Arizona
19.00
6
LSU
17.32
Kickoff Returns
16
24.97
Stanford
32.06
3
Florida
26.48
Turnover Margin
102
-.78
Rutgers
2.25
11
Arkansas
1.00

 

Special teams and turnovers observations. Bell curve here. Really good at kickoff returns (uh-oh), okay at punting and returning punts, and really bad in turnover margin.

Stastical Comparison

Here's how the two teams stack up against each other in each of the key statistical categories in Hooper's wizbang BlogPoll Computerer:

Rank Team WL SOS PED RD 3DO TD PEO OPPG TO 3DD
27
Tennessee Logo
51
32
16
39
70
16
35
26
47
16
33
Ole Miss Logo
31
59
14
58
66
25
72
12
51
2

 

Against a much more difficult schedule, the Vols are roughly evenly matched against Ole Miss. Where they're ranked higher than Tennessee, though, it's fairly close, but where Tennessee is ranked higher, the difference is generally more pronounced.

Players to watch for

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Brandon Bolden
95
58.11
  Dexter McCluster
52.56
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Jevan Snead
73
123.84
Total Offense Jevan Snead
58
216.56
  Brandon Bolden
58.11
  Dexter McCluster
52.56
Receptions Per Game Shay Hodge
T-55
5.00
  Dexter McCluster
3.00
Receiving Yards Per Game Shay Hodge
31
81.44
  Dexter McCluster
39.11
Interceptions  
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Tyler Campbell
18
43.80
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Marshay Green
36
8.82
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Jesse Grandy
11
30.06
Field Goals Joshua Shene
T-65
1.00
Scoring Joshua Shene
6.33
  Shay Hodge
4.00
All-Purpose Runners Brandon Bolden
97.00
  Dexter McCluster
94.78
  Shay Hodge
81.44
  Jesse Grandy
74.25
Sacks Greg Hardy
T-51
.62
  Kentrell Lockett
.44
  Patrick Trahan
.44
Tackles Kendrick Lewis
6.33
  Johnny Brown
6.22
Tackles For Loss Jerrell Powe
T-77
1.00
  Greg Hardy
.81
  Kentrell Lockett
.67
  Patrick Trahan
.67


Observations

Running backs. Dexter McCluster is not ranked nationally in any statistical category, but he's everywhere doing everything. Apart from McCluster, it appears that they have a bunch of good runners, but no spectacular ones. Brandon Bolden is the most productive of the bunch.

Quarterbacks. For as much preseason hype as he got, Jevan Snead's numbers this season haven't been anything special. He's solid, and he can go off at any time, but he can also completely tank at any given time.

Receivers/Tight Ends. Shay Hodge is the team's go-to receiver with 5 catches and 81.44 yards per game. Oh, look. Next is McCluster.

Defense. Look at all of those guys making noise in the backfield. Led by Greg Hardy and Jerrell Powe, they're quite good at pressuring the quarterback and stopping running plays before they get to the line of scrimmage. Hardy's getting .62 sacks and .81 TFLs per game. Powe's getting a sack per game. Kentrell Lockett and Patrick Trahan round out the aggressive group.

Special teams. Jesse Grandy is a dangerous kickoff returner, averaging over 30 yards per return. He's returned two for touchdowns this season, one against UAB and one against Auburn.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo Ole Miss Logo
Best Comparable
Result Against Best Comparable
Prediction
UT rush v. Ole Miss rush defense
168.22
(#46)
136.44
(#58)
South Carolina (145.60)
199
190
UT pass v. Ole Miss pass defense
232.22
(#45)
180.78
(#23)
Alabama
(174)
265
240
Ole Miss rush v. UT rush defense
119
(#39)
172.44
(#40)
WKU
(175)
34
100
Ole Miss pass v. UT pass defense
176.11
(#20)
223.56
(#57)
UCLA
(222.44)
101
120
UT scoring offense v. Ole Miss scoring defense
32.11
(#23)
15.78
(#12)
Alabama
(11.78)
10
13
Ole Miss scoring offense v. UT scoring defense
18.89
(#26)
29.89
(#38)
Alabama
(30.89)
12
12

 

Again, not math, but informed guess. I doubt we'll have as much success against their running game as we did against WKU's, what with ladies man McCluster back there running all over the place and us working on our third starting middle linebacker of the season. I also took trends into account in bumping up the prediction for Tennessee's points. 13 may actually be conservative with how this team has shown it can move the ball in the last few games. But the most concerning thing about the above chart is that Alabama pops up as the best comparable in half the categories.

Prediction? More yards for Tennessee, but a close, relatively low-scoring game. Like the 'Bama game but without Terrence Cody?

Conclusions

  • Against common opponents, Tennessee has fared better than Ole Miss. We beat Memphis worse and played Alabama and Auburn better. The Rebels' best victory this season came against Arkansas. We got ours against South Carolina, a team to which Ole Miss lost.
  • Much like Tennessee (discounting the recent trend), Ole Miss is middle-of-the-pack on offense but very good on defense. They're especially good at pressuring the QB and stopping plays before they can get across the line of scrimmage.
  • The keys to the game for Tennessee will be winning the line of scrimmage on offense and balancing the defense to stop McCluster's big-play ability and Snead's potential as a good passer.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 13, Ole Miss 12