Good news Tennessee football fans: If your fitness monitor registered a dangerously fast heart rate last Saturday, chances are you won’t be having the same experience this weekend. The Volunteers are coming off a thrilling 34-27 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers, and giving themselves a cool down with a match up against the Akron Zips.
This is the last of the tune-up games before they enter their SEC schedule. Their first SEC opponent is the rival Florida Gators, who looked very vulnerable in a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats.
But before we get to the Gators, Tennessee has to handle business against Akron. In last week’s Stat Dive, I showed some of the numbers on Pittsburgh and how the rating systems thought the game would go. They all had Tennessee winning, and that is indeed what happened. It’s still early in the season, so the systems are grasping for data—but they feel pretty confident in Tennessee’s chances for this week. We go through the numbers below and give our take on some of the changes.
FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index)
Overall: 16th (Last Week: 17th)
Offense: 8th (Last Week: 5th)
Defense: 36th (Last Week: 40th)
Very few changes. The systems are still decently high on Pittsburgh (top-40 in both FPI and FEI) so an overtime victory doesn’t move the needle much in either direction.
I was confused on how Akron could have a 1-1 record and be this low (it only goes to 131). Turns out their one victory was against the FCS school Saint Francis (PA). The final score was 30-23 in overtime, and Saint Francis outgained Akron in total yardage 453-384. That is bad. They followed it up with an expected 52-0 thrashing at the hands of Michigan State.
Folks, this might be the worst opponent of the Josh Heupel era, from a pure rankings standpoint. Yes, right down there with 2021 Tennessee Tech. To make matters worse, Akron’s starting quarterback DJ Irons is out for a while with a major leg injury.
FPI (Football Power Index)
Overall: 7th (Last Week: 10th)
Offensive Efficiency: 23rd (Last Week: 30th)
Defensive Efficiency: 17th (Last Week: 11th)
Special Teams Efficiency 63rd (Last Week: 58th)
Anyone else surprised that Tennessee’s special teams efficiency didn’t take much of a hit? You’d think being on the wrong end of both a blocked punt and a muffed punt would cause a bigger slide. However, it could be balanced with Chase McGrath’s 2-for-2 mark on field goals and Paxton Brooks’ decently efficient punts. Or, I’m misunderstanding what goes into special teams efficiency.
Offensive Efficiency: 120th
Defensive Efficiency: 108th
Special Teams Efficiency: 90th
Does everyone remember Joe Moorhead? Yes, the former Mississippi State head coach. Turns out that this is where he ended up! Moorhead is in his first season as head coach for the Zips, trying to build a foundation for success after Akron finished 2021 with a 2-10 record. He has his work cut out for him.
Football Outsiders Line Stats
These numbers will start appearing after week 4.
SP+: Tennessee, 100% — Projected Score (54-6, Tennessee)
FPI: Tennessee, 99.2%
FEI: Tennessee, 99% — Projected Score (51-9, Tennessee)