Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee-Kentucky Statsy Preview: Wildcats outgain, outscore Vols

The GRT Statsy Preview Machine, having done a pretty good job with the Alabama game last week, now turns its attention to the Tennessee-Kentucky game this weekend in Lexington. The bottom line? The SPM agrees with Vegas, ESPN’s FPI, and S&P+ in concluding that Kentucky should win this one by somewhere around five or six points. I’ve eyeball-adjusted that to three points.

Before we get to the particulars, though, let’s have a look at Kentucky’s resume to date to see whether and to what degree a statistical comparison of the two teams might need to be adjusted for strength of schedule.

Kentucky’s Schedule (5-2, 2-2 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Beat Southern Miss, 24-17.
  • W2: Best E Kentucky, 27-16.
  • W3: Beat South Carolina, 23-13.
  • W4: Lost to #20 Florida, 28-27.
  • W5: Beat E Michigan, 24-20.
  • W6: Beat Missouri, 40-34.
  • W7: Bye
  • W8: Lost to Mississippi State, 45-7.
  • W9: Tennessee
  • W10: Ole Miss
  • W11: At Vanderbilt
  • W12: At Georgia
  • W13: Lousiville

The Wildcats’ schedule is ranked as the nation’s 59th most difficult. Tennessee’s schedule is now ranked 9th, which is a huge jump from last week due to having played Alabama.

Stats

Purely from a passing yards allowed perspective, Kentucky will be the worst pass defense the Vols have faced this season. Their run defense looks most like South Carolina’s and Georgia Tech’s, and their scoring defense is a mix between UMass and Florida. On offense, the best comparisons are South Carolina and UMass on the ground, Alabama through the air, and Florida and South Carolina on the scoreboard. The SPM’s official score prediction is Kentucky 24, Tennessee 18, and my eyeballed adjustment is Kentucky 20, Tennessee 17. Details below.

Tennessee rushing

Tennessee is averaging 124.6 rushing yards per game, while Kentucky is giving up 123.6 per game. The closest comparison, for a prior Tennessee opponent that is not as good at run defense as is Kentucky, is South Carolina, which is giving up 142.0 yards per game on the ground. Tennessee got 120 against them. The closest comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent that is better at defending the run than Kentucky is Georgia Tech, which is allowing 116.8. Tennessee got 148 on the ground against Georgia Tech. Based on all of that, my guess for rushing yards for Tennessee against Kentucky is 120.

Kentucky rushing

The Tennessee defense is allowing 247.0 rushing yards per game, while the Kentucky run game is averaging 135.0 yards per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is South Carolina, which is getting 110.9 yards per game on the ground, and they got 194 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Massachusetts, which is averaging 137.9 rushing yards per game and got 144 against Tennessee. I’m guessing that Kentucky will get a little over its average and end up with 150 rushing yards against Tennessee’s defense.

Tennessee passing

Tennessee is averaging 165.1 passing yards per game, and Kentucky is allowing 270.1, which means they are the worst pass defense the Vols have played so far this year. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is South Carolina. They’re allowing 232.3 passing yards per game, and Tennessee got 133 against them. I’m going to guess that Tennessee will put up around 150 passing yards this weekend.

Kentucky passing

The Tennessee pass defense is allowing 158.1 passing yards per game. Kentucky is getting 201.7. This number is almost exactly the same as the “next worst” opponent, which happens to be Alabama (201.0). The Tide got 332 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is South Carolina, which is averaging 226.4 passing yards per game and got 129 against Tennessee. Those numbers make it really difficult to feel good about a prediction, but I’m going to take a stab in the dark and go with Kentucky putting up around its average of 200 passing yards against Tennessee.

Tennessee scoring

Tennessee is averaging 19.6 points per game (discount this by the poor trend the last few games, though), and Kentucky is allowing 24.7. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Massachusetts, which is allowing 31.0 points per game, and Tennessee got 17 against them. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Florida. They’re allowing 23.3 points per game, and Tennessee got 20 against them. My prediction is that Tennessee will score around 18 points against Kentucky. Because that’s a weird football number, and because of the Tennessee offense’s trend toward the drain recently, I’m going with 17.

Kentucky scoring

Tennessee is allowing 26.9 points per game. Kentucky is averaging 24.6. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Florida, which is averaging 23.7 points, and they got 26 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is South Carolina, which is averaging 25.1 points and got 15 against Tennessee. I’m going with Kentucky putting up about 20 points against Tennessee.

SUMMARY

  • Tennessee rushing yards: 120
  • Kentucky rushing yards: 150
  • Tennessee passing yards: 150
  • Kentucky passing yards: 200
  • Tennessee points: 17
  • Kentucky points: 20

Those are my eyeball-adjusted predictions. For the record, the SPM itself is spitting out Kentucky 23.8, Tennessee 18.3.

Current betting lines and other statistical models

The SPM is in agreement with Vegas, as the spread opened at 5.5, with an over/under of 46.5. That makes it look like Kentucky, 26-21 or so.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols a 43.8% chance of beating Kentucky, and S&P+ gives them a 42% chance, setting the game at Kentucky, 26.2-22.8. So S&P+ likes the Vols to cover, but the SPM thinks the opening line was perfect and is therefore staying far away from it.

Last Week

Here’s how the statsy preview machine did for the game between Tennessee and Alabama last week.

  • Tennessee rushing yards: 80 (actually 64)
  • Alabama rushing yards: 300 (actually 272)
  • Tennessee passing yards: 185 (actually 44)
  • Alabama passing yards: 170 (actually 332)
  • Tennessee points: 7 (actually 7)
  • Alabama points: 45 (actually 45)

Hey, I’d say that’s pretty good, although those numbers were eyeball-adjusted. The SPM itself said Alabama 33, Tennessee 7.

Did the Statsy Preview Machine win in Vegas?

The line was Alabama -37 at kickoff, and the SPM said Tennessee would cover, so no. The SPM actually fell off quite a bit from its first full week in the wild when it went 68%. Last week, it dropped to 53%.

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Harley
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Harley

Probably a good game to throw out all the stats (not being critical, just practical)… so many changes in lineup and a QB still finding his way… who knows how we really compare. Go Vols!!!

Pete
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Pete

Since over half of our whatever offense we had is now suspended, I can’t see us picking up a couple of TDs and a FG.

We may do better on defense, but losing a starter has to hurt the depth. Kills me to think some of the great dominant series trends may be frittered away by the likes of Jones and Dooley. Kats win and cover, I think.

But the UNDER on this one is safe.