I have to admit that I am a bit mystified at the Vols' statistical rankings below. I would have thought that a 5-0 team would be really good at some things and that those things would be fairly obvious both to the naked eye and in the stat rankings. Last year's national champion does. Maybe it has something to do with comparing teams still early enough in the season that they have wildly disparate strength-of-schedule rankings.
But look at all of the stuff last year's team was doing really well in the first week of October. That team was 2-3 and was in the Top 30 in 18 stat categories, including meaningful ones like Passes Had Intercepted, First Downs Offense, Rushing Offense, and Scoring Offense.
Team 120, though, ranks in the Top 30 in only five categories, and if you want to argue that only one of them is actually meaningful, I won't argue much.
All of which begs the question: What is this team actually good at that explains the difference between 2-3 and 5-0? As Will pointed out earlier this morning, there are some answers in the team's advanced stat profile at Football Study Hall. In addition to Will identifying the team's ability to prevent explosive plays and his mention of field position -- which is a result of a bundle of things that include how well you punt, return kicks and punts, and recover turnovers (and which we are sneaky good at) -- a couple of other things jumped out at me as well. We are killing it in the fourth quarter (and not so much in the first, which is probably camouflage in the simple NCAA stats for most of things the Vols do well). Also, we're apparently a much better passing team than the NCAA's simple stats suggest (possibly because more of ours go for more yards and more touchdowns than normal). Some of you enterprising readers should dig deeper into those things (or other reasons that might explain what's going on). Let's hear what you find in the comments. If it's something lengthy, use the FanPost section to submit something to us for front page publication.
In the meantime, here are the updated tables of the NCAA's official stat categories and where Tennessee ranks in each of them.
What Tennessee is currently doing well
|Blocked Kicks Allowed||28||1||1||1||1||1|
|Blocked Punts Allowed||64||1||1||1||1||1|
Falling out of the Top 30 this week: Fumbles Lost.
The Vols have recovered a lot of fumbles, and they've likely done so in areas of the field that matter more than others. Kickoff Returns, too, helps with field position. A lot.
Where Tennessee needs major improvement
|Time of Possession||56||94||91||84||76||96|
|Passes Had Intercepted||7||65||70||72||104||99|
|4th Down Conversion Pct||6||73||101||113||106||110|
|Red Zone Defense||24||19||43||78||98||111|
Getting out of the gutter this week: Fewest Penalty Yards, Completion Percentage, Passing Offense.
THE BIG FAT MIDDLE
|Kickoff Return Defense||15||30||55||42||33||34|
|Passing Yards per Completion||87||64||96||103||44||39|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense||4||24||58||47||42||42|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game||16||52||58||76||74||42|
|Team Passing Efficiency||57||86||85||72||51||44|
|Team Tackles for Loss||80||55||42||63||57||45|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct||20||59||99||71||65||46|
|4th Down Conversion Pct Defense||123||70||58||51||39||47|
|Passing Yards Allowed||57||17||29||35||54||48|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed||107||46||71||82||49||49|
|First Downs Defense||30||50||61||57||53||57|
|Team Passing Efficiency Defense||35||61||78||44||59||61|
|Red Zone Offense||82||1||1||1||68||62|
|Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game||6||62||71||95||85||65|
|Punt Return Defense||102||124||120||81||64||65|
|Fewest Penalty Yards||6||63||72||99||95||78|
|First Downs Offense||37||75||97||76||71||78|
Players in the Top 30
So if the Vols Passing Offense is 87th in the nation and Josh Malone is 12th in Passing TDs and 19th in Yards per Reception, it makes you wonder what percentage of Tennessee's passes have gone for touchdowns (and how that compares to other teams).
|Micah Abernathy||Fumbles Recovered||1||1||1||2|
|Joshua Dobbs||Points Responsible For||27||22||7||5|
|Corey Vereen||Fumbles Recovered||11||16||22||5|
|Joshua Dobbs||Points Responsible For Per Game||30||24||11||8|
|Josh Malone||Receiving TDs||24||6||5||12|
|Joshua Dobbs||Passing TDs||16||13|
|Derek Barnett||Tackles For Loss||25||14|
|Evan Berry||Kickoff Returns||1||17|
|Josh Malone||Yards per Reception||2||6||22||20||19|
|Dillon Bates||Fumbles Recovered||22|
|Shy Tuttle||Fumbles Recovered||22|
|Kendall Vickers||Forced Fumbles||19|
|Todd Kelly, Jr.||Forced Fumbles||19|
|Cameron Sutton||Total Interceptions||8||25|
|Aaron Medley||Field Goals Per Game||14||15||25|
|Cameron Sutton||Interceptions Per Game||8||28|
|Jalen Hurd||Rushing Yards||29||28|
|Jalen Hurd||Rushing Yards Per Game||30|
|Aaron Medley||Field Goal Percentage||1|
|Cameron Sutton||Punt Returns||1|
|Evan Berry||Kickoff Return TDs||1|
|Cameron Sutton||Punt Return TDs||2|
|Alvin Kamara||Punt Return TDs||12|
|Evan Berry||Combined Kick Returns||13|
|Jalen Reeves-Maybin||Fumbles Recovered||23|