In light of the Vols 31-24 loss to Oklahoma, many fans have become angry at Butch Jones for yet again not beating teams he should beat. Personally, in my raw emotion reaction piece, I compared the Oklahoma game to previous failures against Vanderbilt and Florida.
Are these criticisms fair? After having done a couple preseason articles on Tennessee's expectations as told by preseason point spreads, I decided that a similar analysis of the last two-and-change seasons might give us some useful information to keep in mind as we move forward. So I did some digging into past results, and I have a nice, handy chart for you. I'm not going to tell you how the numbers should make you feel, but I hope that this will help keep both the praises and the criticisms of the coaching staff as fair as possible.
|Point spread||# of games||Est. win %||Expected record||Actual record||Difference||Notable games|
|-23 to -50||2||98%||1.96-0.04||2-0||+0.04 wins||N/A|
|-17 to -22||1||93%||0.93-0.07||1-0||+0.07 wins||N/A|
|-11 to -16||5||83%||4.15-0.85||5-0||+0.85 wins||Kentucky (-11.5, 50-16 W); Vanderbilt (-15, 24-17 W)|
|-8 to -10.5||0||73%||0.00-0.00||0-0||N/A||N/A|
|-3 to -7.5||4||63%||2.52-1.48||3-1||+0.48 wins||Iowa (-3, 45-28 W); Missouri (-5, 29-21 L)|
|+2.5 to -2.5||3||50%||1.50-1.50||0-3||-1.50 wins||Vanderbilt (-2.5, 14-10 L); Florida (pk, 10-9 L); Oklahoma (+2.5, 31-24 L)|
|+7.5 to +3||3||37%||1.11-1.89||2-1||+0.89 wins||South Carolina (+6, 45-42 W); South Carolina (+7, 23-21 W)|
|+8 to +10.5||0||27%||0.00-0.00||0-0||N/A||N/A|
|+11 to +16||4||17%||0.68-3.32||0-4||-0.68 wins||Missouri (+11, 31-3 L); Georgia (+13.5, 34-31 L)|
|+17 to +22||3||7%||0.21-2.79||0-3||-0.21 wins||Georgia (+19, 35-32 L)|
|+23 to +50||2||2%||0.04-1.96||0-2||-0.04 wins|
In case you're wondering, the whole thing sums up to 0.10 wins below expectation for Jones' tenure at UT, which is definitely within the margin of error.
One thing to keep in mind with all of these numbers is that our sample size is still at just 27 games total. Even the category with the highest sample size still has just five games, so one bad bounce can easily change a +0.8 into a -0.2 or vice versa. But it does draw out some trends to watch. So far, with Butch Jones at the helm, Tennessee games with double-digit spreads have gone according to form much more often than normal, for good (when the Vols are favored) or for ill (when they aren't). Tossup games, as mentioned in the outset, have been a problem. But Jones has outperformed expectations as both a modest favorite and a modest underdog.
Do with that information what you will. For me? I think it's worth keeping an eye on for the rest of the season. If the +3 to +7.5 (or really +3 to +any high number you care to name) category picks up a win that isn't South Carolina (i.e. Georgia or Alabama), I think people will be feeling a lot better about Jones. On the other hand, if that +2.5 to -2.5 category is 0-5 or 0-6 at the end of the year, even if the overall record is in line with expectations, it'll be a big red flag going into 2016. If it's more like 2-3 (or 3-3, or even 2-4), it'll be much easier to chalk up the first three losses to bad luck or the difficulty of getting over the hump.