Tennessee-Kentucky statistical comps preview: Expect a close one in Neyland Saturday

The SPM was the bearer of bad news last week in advance of the Tennessee-Charlotte game, and although you can’t really say it nailed the thing, it was saner than most of us Tennessee fans.

This week, the SPM bucks the trend again, giving the Vols a better chance to win and calling for a closer game than any of Vegas, S&P+, or FPI. It still likes Kentucky to pull out the victory but thinks it will be a slightly closer contest than many think.

Predictions

SPM: Kentucky 19.3Tennessee 15

Eye- and gut-adjusted: Kentucky 20, Tennessee 17

Tennessee rushing yards: 70

Tennessee passing yards: 200

Kentucky rushing yards: 200

Kentucky passing yards: 90

Tennessee points: 17

Kentucky points: 20

Tennessee rushing

Tennessee is averaging 127.7 rushing yards per game, while Kentucky is giving up 133.2 per game. That’s nearly identical to Auburn, which is giving up 133.9 yards per game on the ground. Tennessee got 68 against them. The closest comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent that is better at defending the run than Kentucky is Alabama, which is allowing 102.1. Tennessee got 31 on the ground against Alabama. Based on all of that, my guess for rushing yards for Tennessee against Kentucky is 70.

Kentucky rushing

The Tennessee defense is allowing 161.1 rushing yards per game, while the Kentucky run game is averaging 199.6 yards per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Florida, which is getting 184.9 yards per game on the ground, and they got 201 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Alabama, which is averaging 224.0 rushing yards per game and got 218 against Tennessee. Assuming Benny Snell plays (he’s “probable”), I’m guessing Kentucky will get about 200 rushing yards against Tennessee’s defense.

Tennessee passing

Tennessee is averaging 205.3 passing yards per game, and Kentucky is allowing 178.6. That’s almost identical to Florida, which is giving up 179.0 yards per game through the air, and Tennessee put up 208 against them. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Georgia. They’re allowing 172.3 passing yards per game, and Tennessee got 143 against them. My guess is that Tennessee will basically get its average of around 200 passing yards this weekend.

Kentucky passing

The Tennessee pass defense is allowing 207.3 passing yards per game. Kentucky is getting 156.8, which makes it the least productive passing offense the Vols have played all season (117th in the nation). The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is UTEP, which is averaging 170.4 passing yards per game and got 39 against Tennessee. Based on all of that, I’m going with Tennessee limiting Kentucky to about 90 passing yards against Tennessee.

Tennessee scoring

Tennessee is averaging 24.3 points per game, and Kentucky is allowing 15.3. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Georgia, which is allowing 16.4 points per game, and Tennessee got 12 against them. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Alabama. They’re allowing 14.1 points per game, and Tennessee got 21 against them. My prediction is that Tennessee will score around 17 points against Kentucky.

Kentucky scoring

Tennessee is allowing 26.7 points per game. Kentucky is averaging 24.7. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Charlotte, which is averaging 20.6 points, and they got 3 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Auburn, which is averaging 28.3 points and got 24 against Tennessee. I’m going with Kentucky putting up about 20 points against Tennessee.

Comparison of predictions to other models and Vegas

The Vegas spread favors Kentucky by 5.5-6, with an over/under of 42.5-43, which converts to somewhere around 24-18, Kentucky.

Bill Connelly’s S&P+ says Tennessee has a 33.7% chance of winning and puts the score at Kentucky 28.8, Tennessee 21.5, a spread of -7.3.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols a 33.5% chance of winning.

Left alone, the SPM says Kentucky 19.3, Tennessee 15, a spread of only -4.3.

After looking even closer at the numbers, I’m going with Kentucky 20, Tennessee 17, a spread of -3.

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Harley
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Harley

I will forever trust the SPM and hope the Vols get a few breaks so the score swings to our favor… Go Vols!