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Are the Tennessee Volunteers' second half collapses improving or not?

Second half blowouts have become all too familiar for the Vols and their fans over the past three years. Is there any reason to believe that it's getting any better?

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

I have this vague feeling that the Vols over the past few years have generally been competitive in the first half and too often getting absolutely stomped in the second. It happened again in this year's Florida game, but it seemed to have happened later in the half, meaning the last 20 minutes of the game as opposed to the entire second half. There are generally several explanations for second half collapses. Chief among them are lack of depth, lack of strength, and inability to make adjustments. Forgetting adjustments for a moment, we're told that the team is gaining ground in the depth and strength departments.

All of this information rattling around in my head made me wonder. Is it actually true that the team has been falling apart in the second half? Is the team more competitive in the second half this year? Is it true that we're gettting deeper and stronger? And if the team is deeper and stronger, is that the reason the team is becoming more competitive in the second half? I began compiling this data not knowing the answers to those questions, but I did have preconceptions, namely that the answers were all affirmative. Now that I'm looking at the data, though, I'm beginning to wonder about some of it, partly because the data is incomplete, and I'm hoping we can crowdsource its completion.

Here's what I have so far. It's the last column that I'm hoping y'all can help with.

Opponent Halftime Score Final Score Halftime Margin

Final Margin

2nd Half Difference Wheels Came Off When?
Florida Florida 7, Tennessee 3 Florida 31, Tennessee 17 Opp. +4 Opp. +14 Opp. +10
LSU LSU 7, Tennessee 7 LSU 16, Tennessee 14 Tie Opp. +2 Opp. +2
Georgia Georgia 27, Tennessee 7 Georgia 41, Tennessee 14 Opp. +20 Opp. +27 Opp. +7
Alabama Alabama 13, Tennessee 10 Alabama 41, Tennessee 10 Opp. +3 Opp. +31 Opp. +28
South Carolina South Carolina 10, Tennessee 10 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 24 Tie Opp. +14 Opp. +14
Florida Florida 16, Tennessee 7 Florida 33, Tennessee 23 Opp. +9 Opp. +10 Opp. +1
Georgia Georgia 6, Tennessee 6 Georgia 20, Tennessee 12 Tie Opp. +8 Opp. +8
LSU LSU 17, Tennessee 7 LSU 38, Tennessee 7 Opp. +10 Opp. +31 Opp. +21
Alabama Alabama 6, Tennessee 6 Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 Tie Opp. +31 Opp. +31
South Carolina South Carolina 7, Tennessee 3 South Carolina 14, Tennessee 3 Opp. +4 Opp. +11 Opp. +7
Arkansas Arkansas 21, Tennessee 7 Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7 Opp. +14 Opp. +42 Opp. +28
Florida Tennessee 14, Florida 10 Florida 37, Tennessee 20 UT +4 Opp. +17 Opp. +21
Georgia Tennessee 30, Georgia 30 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44 Tie Opp. +7 Opp. +7

Some conclusions:

  • Against the good teams in the SEC (a qualifier that applies to this entire post), Tennessee has lead at halftime only once, this year against the Gators.
  • Tennessee has, however, been tied at the half in five games out of 13.
  • Of the remaining games, Tennessee was down by less than a TD at halftime four times. The greater leads for opponents at halftime were +9, +10, and +14, and +20. That +20 game against Georgia in 2010 is really the only game that got out of hand in the first half, unless you include Georgia 2012 that fluctuated wildly in the first half but evened out by halftime.
  • All of that seems to support a conclusion that Tennessee is generally competitive with the best teams in the SEC through the first half.
  • Of the games in which Tennessee was either tied or within a score at the half, opponents outscored the Vols in the second half by the following: +2, +7, +7, +8, +10, +14, +21, +28, +31
  • Of those second half performances, 4 are within 8 points and arguably respectable. But there are 5 games in which the opponent outscored the Vols by double figures, 3 of which were by 3 TDs or more, and 2 of which were absolute blowouts by 4 TDs or more.
  • The +21 game happened this year against the Gators. The +28 and +31 games happened against Alabama in 2010 and 2011. I hate those guys. We haven't played them in 2012 yet.

So . . . is it getting any better? You tell me.

But as I said earlier, some data is missing, and I honestly don't know whether it will tell us anything, but I want to see it.

Here's what I'm looking for:

At what point did the wheels come off in those five second half collapses? How much time was left in the half when we hit the point of no return?

And another question to ponder and discuss below: Are the collapses generally happening later in games than they did in prior seasons? Do the collapses have less to do with depth and fatique and more to do with other things like mental lapses that can occur in the first half as easily as the second or the coaches' and/or players' inability to make in-game adjustments?

I'm honestly not dug in on any conclusions here. What do y'all think?