The Tennessee Volunteers will kick off their SEC schedule on Saturday, with a matchup against the No. 11 Florida Gators. The Volunteers are on the road for this one, hoping to snatch their first victory over Florida since 2016.
As promised, we are assessing the team with the help of some analytics. In case you’ve missed the past couple weeks, we started this numbers dive with the Pittsburgh game, and we intend to keep doing it the whole season. We want to keep track of Tennessee’s progress, and provide a deeper look at how the team is performing.
Disclaimer: This week is when the real analysis begins. The first couple weeks were limited, simply because many of these systems don’t begin phasing out preseason projections until Week 4. There are some that will keep them in the calculation from here on out, but at a much lower percentage. So from this week forward, you will be getting a more accurate look at how Tennessee football is doing in the context of the FBS.
FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index)
Overall: 67th (Last Week: 70th)
Offense: 83rd (Last Week: 81st)
Defense: 56th (Last Week: 62nd)
As noted in our piece last week, FEI does not include FCS games in their system. So any changes here our based on the teams around Tennessee. As you can see, all facets of the team have minimal changes.
Florida is a bit of a darling in the ratings systems. Their two wins being FAU and USF aren’t overly impressive—but their close loss to Alabama has them firmly in the top-10. By more than a few metrics, Florida outplayed the Crimson Tide. Now, is that replicable for the rest of the year? Maybe not. We saw them do a somewhat similar thing in 2020—where they had losses to LSU and Texas A&M, but took the eventual national champions down to the wire in the SEC Championship Game.
FEI does seem to be higher on Florida’s defense than others. They still have them at 13th, while others have them outside the top-25. If you watched the game against Alabama, you’d probably side more with the lower ranking. Alabama seemed to move the ball at will through the air, and the Gators couldn’t get a consistent series from their secondary. Tennessee is, unfortunately, not in a great position to take advantage of that.
FPI (Football Power Index)
Overall: 55th (Last Week: 59th)
Offensive Efficiency: 91st (Last Week: 81st)
Defensive Efficiency: 71st (Last Week: 87th)
Special Teams Efficiency: 29th (Last Week: 40th)
It’s interesting to watch Tennessee’s offensive efficiency continue downward, while their defensive efficiency improves—along with a special teams efficiency that is becoming one of the best in the nation.
If I had to hazard a guess about the offense’s woes: I think it’s a combination of Tennessee’s lackluster short yardage conversion (62nd nationally), and a lower than expected amount of explosive plays (83rd in plays of 20+ yards). Both numbers look poor when adjusting for the competition Tennessee has played. Those statistics and more can be found at cfbstats.com.
Offensive Efficiency: 3rd
Defensive Efficiency: 33rd
Special Teams Efficiency: 104th
This is more of what I was referencing with Florida’s defensive efficiency ranking. They still have a good defense—it’s just a matter of how good it actually is. All systems agree that their offense is formidable.
More Interesting Stats
Tennessee ranks top-10 in 4th down conversion attempts this year (nine overall). The Volunteers are fully embracing the new era of football, and being aggressive in these situations. They’ve converted on a little over half of those, with 5/9 successful plays.
The Volunteers are also great in red zone conversion numbers. They’re 21st in overall red zone scoring percentage, and 31st in red zone touchdown percentage.
Tennessee is top-10 in tackles-for-loss.
Florida is 6th nationally in plays of 20+ yards.
The Gators are lackluster in the red zone, ranking just 100th in red zone scoring percentage. That might improve against the Tennessee defense, which is 105th in defending against red zone scores.
FPI: Florida, 88.6%
FEI: Florida, 83% — Projected Score (36-19, Florida)
SP+: Florida, 77% — Projected Score (34-21, Florida)