Tennessee Vols vs. Missouri Tigers

Tennessee-Missouri Statsy Preview: that 10.5-point spread is just about right

The GRT Statsy Preview Machine and I disagreed last week, and the DNA won out over the bits and bytes. We agree on the outcome this week, but not on the spread, as the SPM is taking Tennessee and the points while I think Missouri covers despite Tennessee ostensibly having more talent on the field.

Before we get to the particulars, though, let’s have a look at Missouri’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.

Missouri (4-5, 1-4 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Beat Missouri State 72-43.
  • W2: Lost to South Carolina, 31-13.
  • W3: Lost to Purdue, 35-3.
  • W4: Lost to #15 Auburn, 51-14.
  • W5: Bye
  • W6: Lost to Kentucky, 40-34.
  • W7: Lost to #4 Georgia, 53-28.
  • W8: Beat Idaho, 68-21.
  • W9: Beat UConn, 52-12.
  • W10: Beat Florida, 45-16.
  • W11: Tennessee
  • W12: At Vanderbilt
  • W13: At Arkansas

That schedule is ranked as the nation’s 50th most difficult. Tennessee’s schedule is now 18th, so keep that disparity in mind as you look at the stats.

Stats

This weekend, the Vols will face the best passing offense they’ve seen all season but also the worst scoring defense they’ve seen all season. How does Missouri look otherwise? Read on.

Tennessee rushing

Tennessee is averaging 130.0 rushing yards per game, while Missouri is giving up 181.3 per game. The closest comparison, for a prior Tennessee opponent that is not as good at run defense as is Missouri, is Massachusetts, which is giving up 200.7 yards per game on the ground. Tennessee got 135 against them. The closest comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent that is better at defending the run than Missouri is Florida, which is allowing 172.8. Tennessee got 183 on the ground against Florida. Based on all of that, my guess for rushing yards for Tennessee against Missouri is 160.

Missouri rushing

The Tennessee defense is allowing 237.3 rushing yards per game, while the Missouri run game is averaging 169.2 yards per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Southern Mississippi, which is getting 168.7 yards per game on the ground, and they got 118 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Alabama, which is not very close at all. They’re averaging 278.4 rushing yards per game, and they got 272 against Tennessee. I’m guessing Missouri will get a little less than its average of 169 rushing yards against Tennessee’s defense. Let’s call it 150.

Tennessee passing

Tennessee is averaging 168.1 passing yards per game, and Missouri is allowing 260.1. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Kentucky, which is giving up 279.4 yards per game through the air, and Tennessee put up 242 against them. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is South Carolina. They’re allowing 239.4 passing yards per game, and Tennessee got 133 against them. My guess is that Tennessee will put up 200 passing yards this weekend.

Missouri passing

Missouri is the best passing offense the Vols have faced all season. The Tennessee pass defense is allowing 150.0 passing yards per game. Missouri is getting 314.9. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Massachusetts, which is getting 288.1 yards per game through the air, but got only 137 against Tennessee. I’m going with Missouri putting up about 240 passing yards against Tennessee.

Tennessee scoring

This will be the worst scoring defense the Vols have played all season. Tennessee is averaging 20.8 points per game, and Missouri is allowing 33.6. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Massachusetts, which is allowing 30.9 points per game. However, Tennessee only got 17 against them. The most points Tennessee has scored this season in a non-overtime game against an FBS opponent is 26 (against Kentucky). They scored 28 against Georgia Tech in regulation. Their ceiling appears to be 42, but that came against FCS Indiana State. I’m thinking the Vols would normally score somewhere between those numbers (28 and 42), but that this offensive line is going to have trouble with Missouri’s defensive line, so I’m going with the low end and saying 31.

Missouri scoring

Tennessee is allowing 25.2 points per game. Missouri is averaging 36.6. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Georgia Tech, which is averaging 31.8 points, and they got 28 against Tennessee in regulation. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Alabama, which is averaging 40.9 points and got 45 against Tennessee. I’m going with Missouri putting up about 43 points against Tennessee.

SUMMARY

  • Tennessee rushing yards: 160
  • Missouri rushing yards: 150
  • Tennessee passing yards: 200
  • Missouri passing yards: 240
  • Tennessee points: 31
  • Missouri points: 43

Those are my eyeball-adjusted predictions. For the record, the SPM itself is spitting out Missouri 33.3, Tennessee 24, a spread of Missouri -9.3.

Current betting lines and other statistical models

The spread is Missouri -10.5, with an over/under of 61.5. That makes it look like Missouri, 36-26 or so.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols a 35.4% chance of beating Missouri, and the S&P+ puts it at 28%, setting the game at Missouri, 33.7-23.7.

So the humans and machines are in general agreement on the 10.5-point spread, but the SPM is going with Tennessee and the points. Me, I’m taking Missouri to cover.

Last Week

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

  • Tennessee rushing yards: 135 (actually 95)
  • Southern Mississippi rushing yards: 175 (actually 118)
  • Tennessee passing yards: 200 (actually 115)
  • Southern Mississippi passing yards: 130 (actually 161)
  • Tennessee points: 23 (actually 24)
  • Southern Mississippi points: 14 (actually 10)

Once again, those were my eyeball-adjusted predictions. The SPM projection on the score was Southern Miss 18.5, Tennessee 14.8.

Did the Statsy Preview Machine win in Vegas?

The line was Tennessee -6.5, and the SPM thought Southern Miss would win outright, so it lost when Tennessee covered. With human intervention, we went with Tennessee covering, so hooray for DNA, at least on this game. Overall, the SPM went 33-26 against the spread for the week, posting 55.93%. Over the four weeks we’ve been testing it, it’s gone 67.92%, 53.06%, 54.55%, and 55.93% for an overall rate of 57.87%.

 

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2 Comments on "Tennessee-Missouri Statsy Preview: that 10.5-point spread is just about right"

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Bill Peters
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I don’t know if hope springs eternal. From my military days, at least, hope was never a viable option. Nonetheless, I’m hoping that JG can bring his A-game to the party Saturday night in CoMo; otherwise, I fear that the Statsy Machine’s 10.5-point edge will be way too conservative, and we’ll get burned when the D gets gassed from trying to cover too many 3-and-outs.

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