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Tennessee Vols vs. Kentucky Wildcats: statistical game preview

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Kentucky features the worst rushing and scoring defense Tennessee has played all year. Will it matter? Will the game end in a tie and avert nuclear war just like in that movie? Nobody wins, so everybody wins?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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 Vanderbilt.

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

Actual Results Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 10 184 53 237
Vanderbilt 14 90 195 285

That's the worst performance of the season for this thing, which was as shocked as we were with all of the offensive ineptitude by both teams. If memory serves, it is only the second game for which it got the result wrong, the first being South Carolina. And I'll note that the actual machine was split with itself on the result, giving the game to Tennessee from its perspective and to Vandy from the 'Dores' perspective. In any event, the eyeballed prediction (informed by the data) was wrong all over the place. Let's see if it can do better this week.

Head-to-Head, from Tennessee's Perspective

Tennessee Logo Kentucky 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. Kentucky rushing defense 50 185.73 97 195.45 None South Alabama None South Alabama 278
80 182.3 278
Tennessee passing offense vs. Kentucky passing defense 112 161.8 74 232.6 Georgia South Alabama Georgia South Alabama 210
75 232.8 51 223.1 215 204
Tennessee rushing defense vs. Kentucky rushing offense 104 213.55 84 148.73 Vanderbilt Florida Vanderbilt Florida 153
98 133.09 83 151.91 90 215
Tennessee passing defense vs. Kentucky passing offense 24 207.2 99 187.9 Auburn Vanderbilt Auburn Vanderbilt 115
106 179.6 70 230.3 35 195
Tennessee scoring offense vs. Kentucky scoring defense 93 23.5 92 31.5 None Georgia None Georgia 31
78 29 31
Tennessee scoring defense vs. Kentucky scoring offense 85 30.4 104 21.1 Florida South Alabama Florida South Alabama 28
111 19.9 69 28.5 31 24

Head-to-Head, from Kentucky's Perspective

Kentucky 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
Kentucky rushing offense vs. Tennessee rushing defense 84 148.73 104 213.55 Miami (Ohio) Western Kentucky Miami (Ohio) Western Kentucky 239
113 230.91 58 157.55 262 216
Kentucky passing offense vs. Tennessee passing defense 99 187.9 24 207.2 Vanderbilt South Carolina Vanderbilt South Carolina 149
28 208.8 17 200.7 120 178
Kentucky rushing defense vs. Tennessee rushing offense 97 195.45 50 185.73 Georgia Mississippi State Georgia Mississippi State 191
56 179.55 39 193.73 230 152
Kentucky passing defense vs. Tennessee passing offense 74 232.6 112 161.8 Miami (Ohio) Florida Miami (Ohio) Florida 90
120 122.5 107 176 23 156
Kentucky scoring offense vs. Tennessee scoring defense 104 21.1 85 30.4 Miami (Ohio) Georgia Miami (Ohio) Georgia 29
102 33.9 78 29 41 17
Kentucky scoring defense vs. Tennessee scoring offense 92 31.5 93 23.5 Florida Mississippi State Florida Mississippi State 26
111 19.9 76 27.2 24 28

When Tennessee runs the ball: We're getting about 185 yards on the ground, and Kentucky's giving up 195, which is the worst rushing defense we've played all year. The closest comp is South Alabama, who's holding opponents to 182 per game. We got 278 against them. To Kentucky, our rushing offense looks most like Georgia's, but we're also close to Mississippi State's (which was actually better but did worse against Kentucky), and those two teams got 230 and 152 against the Wildcats. I'm going with 240.

When Tennessee passes: Let's call this "If Tennessee passes," shall we? We're horrible, getting 162 yards per game. Kentucky's giving up 232, which is essentially tied with Georgia. We got 215 against the Bulldogs (and close to the same amount (204) against South Alabama), the next closest comp. From Kentucky's perspective, we look like Miami of Ohio and Florida, except that we're not (yet) blocking ourselves. Miami of Ohio got 23 passing yards, which . . . don't even think of laughing, okay? Florida got 156. Taking all of that into account, I"m going with 150 passing yards.

When Kentucky runs the ball: We're holding opponents to 213 rushing yards per game, and Kentucky's getting about 149. That's right there with Florida (152) and not far from Vandy (133). Those two teams got 215 and 90 yards against us. Our run defense looks like Miami's and Western Kentucky's to the Wildcats, and the 'Cats got 262 and 216 against them. Let's call it 200 rushing yards for the 'Cats.

When Kentucky passes the ball: Take this for what it's worth, but Kentucky's passing game is closest to Auburn's, although it's probably not by design or because of a one-dimensional running game that no one can stop. The next closest comp is Vandy, who got 195 passing yards against us. The result from Kentucky's perspective? 149 yards. So let's go with 165 through the air for Kentucky this Saturday.

On the scoreboard for Tennessee: Kentucky features the worst scoring defense we've played all year, so let's hope for some touchdowns this week. The closest comp in this category is Georgia, against whom we got 31 points. The result from Kentucky's perspective is 26, so let'ts call it 28 points for the Vols.

On the scoreboard for Kentucky: We're holding opponents to about 30 points per game. Kentucky's getting 21. The next-worst comp is Florida (about 20), and they got 31 against us. Looking at it from Kentucky's sideline? 26. I'm going with . . . 28. Heh.

Eyeballed Predictions

Score Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards
Tennessee 28 240 150 390
Kentucky 28 200 165 365

Vegas currently has Tennessee minus four in this game, and I hope that's right. But I fear we're in for another close one. This concludes your abbreviated statsy preview post.