Did you blink? Then you might have missed the 2021 college football season. Maybe it was the post-COVID novelty, maybe it was the fun of a new coach, whatever it was, it made this season go by much quicker than previous ones. Luckily, the Tennessee Volunteers have turned out to be one of the better surprises of the season, grabbing bowl eligibility in a year where many expected them to struggle. They now enter the final game of the year standing at 6-5, with only the Vanderbilt Commodores remaining in front of them.
You should know by now that the ratings systems are predicting a massive blowout in Tennessee’s favor. Largely because Vanderbilt might be worse than a lot of G5 teams. If Tennessee could put up 40+ on teams like Missouri, South Carolina, and Kentucky, it stands to reason they will do the same to the Commodores.
With the season wrapping up, we will have one more article on these numbers after the Vanderbilt game. That piece will be a deeper dive into the biggest surprises and changes from the beginning of the season to now. There’s been quite a lot of movement for Tennessee in these ratings systems, and we will have a blast discussing it. For now, let’s look at what Saturday’s contest will involve.
FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index)
Overall: 16th (Last Week: 27th)
Offense: 9th (Last Week: 21st)
Defense: 63rd (Last Week: 69th)
Decent sized jumps in the offensive and overall rankings. Any time you beat an FBS team 60-14, you’ll see the benefits in the ratings systems. Even when that opponent might not be all that impressive.
Vanderbilt’s success rates are poor across the board. They’re not explosive in either the running or the passing game, and their offensive line is porous. The one bright spot they’ve got is their backup quarterback Mike Wright. Wright took over for starter Ken Seals a few games ago after Seals got injured—and he might be their best option moving forward. He’s a dual threat quarterback, but he’s actually a better passer (on paper) than Seals. Wright had a particularly strong game against Missouri, when he combined for 274 yards and three touchdowns. The Commodores have certainly moved the ball better in their last three games than they did earlier this year.
As for the defense...I’ve got nothing. Their run defense gets flattened routinely, they give up plenty of explosive passing plays, and they have poor havoc rates from both the front seven and their defensive backs. They haven’t given up less than 31 points since the South Carolina game in mid-October. South Alabama and Bowling Green had better defenses than this.
FPI (Football Power Index)
Overall: 23rd (Last Week: 30th)
Offensive Efficiency: 18th (Last Week: 23rd)
Defensive Efficiency: 41st (Last Week: 41st)
Special Teams Efficiency: 27th (Last Week: 34th)
Offensive Efficiency: 124th
Defensive Efficiency: 116th
Special Teams Efficiency: 125th
They’re not good.
Football Outsiders Line Stats
Wow. This might be the worst we’ve seen yet. There is almost NOTHING good about their defensive line, besides an oddly decent Power Success Rate. Consider how low Tennessee’s offensive line ranks in their sack rates...and realize that Vanderbilt’s defensive line somehow won’t be able to take advantage of that (allegedly).
I also wonder how much of their offensive line’s pass protection numbers are more linked to a general lack of a passing game. Easy to not get sacked when you don’t actually try airing it out.
SP+: Tennessee, 98% — Projected Score (47-10, Tennessee)
FPI: Tennessee, 97.3%
FEI: Tennessee, 96.4% — Projected Score (44.4-17.9, Tennessee)