Numbers know no context. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad thing, and often you don’t know which is the case. Our Statsy Preview Machine thinks this weekend’s game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Charlotte 49ers is going to be a lot closer and a lot more uncomfortable for Vols fans than we expect or want it to be.
But the SPM also doesn’t know that Charlotte plays in Conference USA while Tennessee plays in the SEC, and it doesn’t know that Tennessee’s strength of schedule ranks 7th in the nation while Charlotte’s ranks 120th. And it doesn’t know that there’s an improvement curve associated with teams under new head coaches and that Tennessee’s is probably accelerated.
So, this week’s statsy preview calls for a healthy dose of human adjustment, but the numbers also seem to suggest more moderation than we probably would otherwise.
SPM: Tennessee 22, Charlotte 19
Eye- and gut-adjusted: Tennessee 34, Charlotte 17
Tennessee rushing yards: 120
Charlotte rushing yards: 100
Tennessee passing yards: 250
Charlotte passing yards: 180
Right out of the gate, the numbers make you go, “Huh?” Charlotte’s rushing defense, which is giving up only 89.8 yards per game, is 6th in the nation. Alabama’s is ranked 21st, giving up 113.4 yards per game to an SEC schedule.
Still, the Vols got only 31 rushing yards against the Tide. Against Auburn (No. 27 with 125.5), Tennessee got only 68.
The fact that Charlotte’s numbers have been compiled primarily against a C-USA slate certainly calls for an eye-and-gut adjustment, but Tennessee’s struggle to run the ball consistently is still a cause for concern.
Based on all of that, my guess for rushing yards for Tennessee against Charlotte is 120 yards.
The Tennessee defense is allowing 169.8 rushing yards per game, while the Charlotte run game is averaging 143.0 yards per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is UTEP, which is getting 130.8 yards per game on the ground, and they got 95 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is West Virginia, which is averaging 147.9 rushing yards per game and got 118 against Tennessee.
With an eye-and-gut adjustment, I’m guessing Charlotte will get about 100 rushing yards against Tennessee’s defense.
Tennessee is averaging 209.5 passing yards per game. Charlotte, allowing 228.9 passing yards per game, features the worst passing defense the Vols have played this year.
With the exception of ETSU, the closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Auburn. They’re allowing 222.5 passing yards per game, and Tennessee got 328 against them.
The productivity through the air for the Vols against Auburn was primarily talent, but there was also a fair amount of luck involved, so my guess is that Tennessee will put up somewhere around 250 passing yards this weekend.
The Tennessee pass defense is allowing 214.3 passing yards per game. Charlotte is getting 197.3. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is UTEP, which is getting 165.5 yards per game through the air, and they got 39 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Florida, which is averaging 197.8 passing yards per game and got 186 against Tennessee. I’m going with Charlotte putting up about 180 passing yards against Tennessee.
Tennessee is averaging 25.6 points per game, and Charlotte is allowing 26.1. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is UTEP, which is allowing 30.0 points per game, and Tennessee got 24 against them. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is South Carolina. They’re allowing 25.6 points per game, and Tennessee got 24 against them.
That seems to suggest that Tennessee generally gets what the scoring defense gives. But with eye-and-gut-and-C-USA adjustments, my prediction is that Tennessee will score around 34 points against Charlotte.
Tennessee is allowing 29.6 points per game. Charlotte is averaging 22.8. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is UTEP, which is averaging 15.4 points, and they got 0 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Auburn, which is averaging 28.4 points and got 24 against Tennessee. I’m going with Charlotte putting up about 17 points against Tennessee.
Comparison of predictions to other models and Vegas
The Vegas spread favors Tennessee by 21, with an over/under of 46-47, which converts to something like 34-13, Vols.
Left alone, the SPM says Tennessee 22, Charlotte 19, a spread of only -3.
With eyeball and gut adjustments, I’m going with Tennessee 34, Charlotte 17, a spread of -17.
Bill Connelly’s S&P+ says Tennessee has a 78% chance of winning and puts the score at Tennessee 35, Charlotte 21.6, a spread of only -13.4.
ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols a 93.7% chance of winning.