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Tennessee Vols vs. Vanderbilt Commodores: statistical game preview

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The Vanderbilt Commodores have the worst rushing attack the Vols have faced all year, but the numbers say we should buckle in for a close one.

Frederick Breedon

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 or a full season (because football seasons are short)) 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 this is still a worthwhile endeavor.

Also, this: All of the following information is gleaned exclusively from the official NCAA statistics and the awesome and unless otherwise stated 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

Here's how the statsy preview machine did for last week's game between the Vols and Auburn.

Prediction Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 10 190 210 400
Auburn 35 320 170 490

Actual Results Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 23 226 128 354
Auburn 55 444 35 479

We'll say that's a whiff, although the total yards isn't too far off. Just goes to show you what a good team with a killer instinct will do to a tired team with vulnerabilities. That, and the importance of special teams breakdowns, which sort of came out of nowhere for the Vols.


Head-to-Head, from Tennessee's Perspective

Tennessee Logo Vandy 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. Vanderbilt rushing defense 49 185.9 41 148.1 South Carolina Georgia South Carolina Georgia 168
45 150.8 35 145.7 146 189
Tennessee passing offense vs. Vanderbilt passing defense 110 172.7 48 224.4 South Alabama Oregon South Alabama Oregon 171
51 225.3 29 211.1 204 138
Tennessee rushing defense vs. Vanderbilt rushing offense 109 225.9 94 137.4 None Florida None Florida 215
83 151.4 215
Tennessee passing defense vs. Vanderbilt passing offense 24 208.4 67 233.8 Florida Alabama Florida Alabama 221
103 181.4 61 238.2 167 275
Tennessee scoring offense vs. Vanderbilt scoring defense 87 24.9 64 26.5 South Alabama Western Kentucky South Alabama Western Kentucky 42
79 29.2 58 25.7 31 52
Tennessee scoring defense vs. Vanderbilt scoring offense 97 32 51 31.3 South Carolina Georgia South Carolina Georgia 28
55 30.8 28 35.8 21 34

Head-to-Head, from Vanderbilt's Perspective

Vandy 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
Vanderbilt rushing offense vs. Tennessee rushing defense 94 137.4 109 225.9 Massachusetts UAB Massachusetts UAB 186
113 230.4 107 222.6 166 206
Vanderbilt passing offense vs. Tennessee passing defense 67 233.8 24 208.4 Massachusetts South Carolina Massachusetts South Carolina 194
33 213.6 15 198.6 240 147
Vanderbilt rushing defense vs. Tennessee rushing offense 41 148.1 49 185.9 UAB South Carolina UAB South Carolina 188
50 185.4 37 197.1 156 220
Vanderbilt passing defense vs. Tennessee passing offense 48 224.4 110 172.7 Massachusetts Florida Massachusetts Florida 227
111 169.5 103 181.4 149 305
Vanderbilt scoring offense vs. Tennessee scoring defense 51 31.3 97 32 UAB Texas A&M UAB Texas A&M 38
120 42.6 87 30.9 52 24
Vanderbilt scoring defense vs. Tennessee scoring offense 64 26.5 87 24.9 Kentucky UAB Kentucky UAB 15
103 21.5 84 25.4 6 24

When Tennessee runs the ball: We're still getting about 186 yards per game on the ground. Vandy is giving up 148. That's closest to South Carolina (150) and not far from Georgia (145), and against those two teams, we got 146 and 189 rushing yards respectively. To Vandy, we look about the same as UAB and South Carolina, which they held to 156 and 220. Taking all of that into account, I'm going with 180 yards on the ground for the Vols on Saturday.

When Tennessee passes: We're passing for 172 yards per game. Vandy's giving up 224, which is closest to South Alabama for us. (The next highest is Oregon, but it's not really even close, so I'm excluding them.) Against the Jaguars, we got 204 passing yards. Looking at it from Vandy's perspective doesn't help much, because we look mostly like Massachusetts (ouch) and Florida (hahahahaha) to them in the passing game, but their pass defense results against those two teams were pretty inconsistent (149 for Massachusetts, 305 for Florida). I'm going to go with 220 passing yards for the Vols.

When Vandy runs the ball: We're "holding" opponents to 225 rushing yards per game; Vandy's getting 137, which means they're about as bad on the ground with the ball as we are without it. As a matter of fact, Vanderbilt is the worst rushing attack we've faced all year. The next highest is Florida, who's getting 151, and they got 215 against us. From Vandy's perspective, we look like Massachusetts (really getting tired of typing that) and UAB (not much better), and they held them to 166 and 206. So yeah, I think we can "hold" them to 190 or so.

When Vandy passes the ball: Opponents are getting only 208 passing yards per game against us (although Auburn barely passed at all, so take that for what it's worth). Vandy's getting about 234, which most closely resembles -- brace yourselves for bad news -- Alabama, who's getting 238. Florida is the closest lower comp, but it's not particularly close. Bama got 275 against us. The result when looking at it from Vanderbilt's perspective is 194. I'm going with 230.

On the scoreboard for Tennessee: We're getting 25 points per game, and Vandy is giving up 26. That's closest to Western Kentucky, who we lit up for 52, but that was a bit of a fluke with all of the turnovers. The closest lowest comp is South Alabama, who's holding opponents to 29 points, and we got 31 against them. Things get weird when you look at it from Vandy's perspective. We're closest to UAB for them, and they held them to 24, but they also held the next lowest comp (Kentucky) to 6 points, which is making the machine spit out 15 points for the Vols. I'm going with "That's Kentucky," and predicting 30 points for the good guys. But beware.

On the scoreboard for Vandy: We're "holding" opponents to 32 points per game; Vandy's getting 31. That's closest to the Gamecocks, who are getting 31 but we held to 21. Looking at it from the Commodores' perspective, we look like Texas A&M (and a bit like UAB) to them, and they got 24 and 52 against them respectively. I'm going with "UAB, huh?" and predicting 28 points for the bad guys.

Eyeballed Predictions

Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 30 180 220 400
Vanderbilt 28 190 230 420

Heh. As you've no doubt noticed, I prepare this post from a template, bringing up the last one I wrote and changing what needs to be changed (and too often missing something) for the current week. In doing so, I just re-read my conclusion for the Auburn game, which I'm going to repeat here just because it makes me feel better:

For two weeks, these predictions have been right in line with the Vegas odds for the games, but the early line for this one is only 7 to 7.5 in favor of Auburn. I don't know what to make of that because honestly, I don't see how the Tennessee defense is going to be able to stop the Auburn run game. It certainly helps that Auburn's pass game isn't nearly as good, so the game plan can focus on stopping the run. But focusing on it and actually doing it are entirely different things. Perhaps Tennessee's offense will click and we can get into a shootout with them, but apart from that, I think we're in for another humbling defeat this week.

Yeah. Anyway, we're again in line with Vegas odds, which are basically saying that this game is even and giving the nod to the Vols for being at home. I think we could very well see overtime again.

This concludes your abbreviated statsy preview post because it's already after 8:00 and Christmas is coming.