Josh Palmer

Gameplanning Tennessee-Auburn with head-to-head statistical rankings

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Below is a look at Tennessee’s national stat rankings side-by-side with the counterpart rankings for the Auburn Tigers. If you’re looking for hope, you may find some here, as the teams are more even in some of the key matchups than you might expect.

But this game is probably coming down to third downs. Both Tennessee’s offense and Auburn’s defense are struggling on the money down, so fixing that first could go a long way toward a victory. On the other side of the ball, there’s a terrifying disparity between Auburn’s offense and Tennessee’s defense on third down, so when the Vols are on defense, they’re going to have to figure out how to tip the scales on third down by winning first and second.

When the Vols have the ball

Link to table

Where’s the opportunity?

Advantage may be too strong of a word, but there do appear to be a couple of areas that are even because Auburn’s defense is not particularly good at them. For instance, they’re not especially adept on first downs, and they are about as bad defending on third downs as the Vols are at converting them. Their numbers against the pass and the run aren’t great, but Tennessee’s offense is better at running the ball, so that’s probably the Vols’ best bet.

Where’s the danger?

It’s hard to say, to be honest. Somehow, Auburn’s defense is quite good at keeping points off the board (and to a lesser degree, good at keeping yards out of the box score) despite not being great at defending the pass or the run. It could be due to being decent at getting interceptions and defending in the red zone.

Gameplan for the Vols on offense

Based on these numbers, Tennessee’s best bet is to run the ball. It’s the closest thing to an even matchup. Being effective on first down will be crucial, and whichever team best mitigates its third down problems may have the advantage.

Vols on defense

Link to table

Where’s the opportunity?

Again, not so much an “advantage” for the Vols, but in the key defensive stat categories that matter most, this is much closer to a push than I had anticipated. Tennessee’s defense appears pretty evenly matched against Auburn’s offense in yards and scoring and in both the running and passing game.

Where’s the danger?

All of that goes out the window on third down, though, as Auburn is very good at converting them and the Vols’ defense is very bad at defending them.

Gameplan for the Vols on defense

Win first and second down to force third-and-long situations and mitigate the disadvantage on third downs.

Special teams

Link to table

Tennessee should be able to hold its own on special teams, and has an actual advantage in net punting.

Turnovers and penalties

Link to table

The teams are currently about equal when it comes to penalties, but the Tigers are winning on turnover margin, mostly because they don’t give the ball up much.

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