Tennessee-Kentucky, according to the GRT Statsy Preview Machine

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Tennessee opened as a 6.5-point favorite over Kentucky this week, and the line has since moved to Tennessee -6. Here’s what the GRT Statsy Preview Machine thinks about that.

From the perspective of Tennessee

Each team has played three games in 2020, so the machine will only look at current year data.

  • Tennessee’s Scoring Offense: 29
  • Kentucky’s Scoring Offense: 26
  • Tennessee’s Scoring Defense: 27.7
  • Kentucky’s Scoring Defense: 24.3

Tennessee’s offense against Kentucky’s defense

Kentucky’s scoring defense of 24.3 is most similar to the following prior Tennessee opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • South Carolina 25.3
  • Georgia 12.3

In case you’re wondering like I was, Missouri’s an even worse comp than Georgia, as the Tigers’ scoring defense is currently 38.

Tennessee scored 21 points against Georgia and 31 points against South Carolina. Combined, that’s 138% of what those teams usually give up, so the estimated points for Tennessee against Kentucky is 33.6.

Kentucky’s offense against Tennessee’s defense

Kentucky’s scoring offense of 26 is most similar to the following prior Tennessee opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • Missouri 25.3
  • South Carolina 30.7

Tennessee allowed Missouri 12 points South Carolina 27 points, which combined is 70% of what those teams usually score. So the estimated points for Kentucky against Tennessee is 18.2.

Estimated score: Tennessee 33.6, Kentucky 18.2

From the perspective of Kentucky

Kentucky’s offense against Tennessee’s defense

Tennessee’s scoring defense of 27.7 is most similar to the following prior Kentucky opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • Mississippi State 26.3
  • Auburn 22.7

Kentucky scored 13 points against Auburn and 24 points against Mississippi State. Combined, that is 76% of what those teams usually give up. Estimated points for Kentucky against Tennessee: 21.

Tennessee’s offense against Kentucky’s defense

Tennessee’s scoring offense of 29 is most similar to the following prior Kentucky opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • Auburn 21.7
  • Mississippi State 20

Kentucky allowed 29 points to Auburn and 2 points to Mississippi State [FLAG!]. That’s 74% of what those teams usually score, which makes the estimated points for Tennessee against Kentucky: 21.5.

Estimated score: Kentucky 21, Tennessee 21.5

SPM Final Estimates

Combining the results from both perspectives, here’s what we get:

SPM Final estimated score: Tennessee 27.5, Kentucky 19.6

SPM Final estimated spread: Tennessee -7.9

Difference between the SPM and the Vegas opening spread: 1.4

That makes this yet another Category 1 game for the Statsy Preview Machine, meaning it’s not overly confident about its conclusion that Tennessee will cover because it is not far off from the Vegas spread.

Eyeball adjustments

The only thing that really jumps out at me from the above concerns Mississippi State’s offense as a comp for judging Kentucky’s defense. Leach’s Air Raid exploded onto the scene with 44 points against LSU. It was then immediately grounded with 14 points against Arkansas and 2 points against Kentucky. Also, LSU’s defense appears to be suspect, as it allowed 45 points to Missouri, a team that scored only 12 points against the Vols. Also also, Auburn scored more points against Kentucky than they usually get.

For those reasons, I am highly skeptical of Mississippi State as a reliable comp and thus the estimated points for Tennessee against Kentucky from Kentucky’s perspective. If we exclude Mississippi State as a comp, that leaves Ole Miss as the only other possible comp for this year. The Rebels’ scoring offense is 41.7, and they got 42 total points (35 in regulation) against the Wildcats. For regulation, that’s 84% of what they usually get. Combining that with the Auburn comps, those teams got essentially 100% of what they usually get, which would mean Tennessee would score what it usually does: 29. So, the estimated points for Tennessee against Kentucky from Kentucky’s perspective would be 29 instead of 21.5. That would make the Kentucky perspective Tennessee 29, Kentucky 21, and the cumulative result Tennessee 31.3, Kentucky 19.6. That would make Tennessee an 11.5-point favorite.

So, my eyeballs are raising their eyebrows at one component of the Statsy Preview Machine’s analysis and going instead with a predicted score of Tennessee 31, Kentucky 20. Both I and the Statsy Preview Machine agree, though, that the Vols should cover the 6- to 6.5-point spread this week.

Other predictions from other systems

Vegas has Tennessee as a 6- (current) to 6.5-point (opening) favorite. With an over/under of 46-49, that translates to something like Tennessee 27, Kentucky 21.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ likes Tennessee by 5.2 (Vols 27, Wildcats 22) and gives the Vols a 62% chance of winning. He’s using a 6-point spread and does not like the Vols to cover.

Bottom line

The GRT Statsy Preview Machine thinks the Vols will cover either the opening 6.5-point or the current 6-point spread. I do as well. But it’s close enough to not feel especially confident about it.

  • Vegas: Tennessee 27, Kentucky 21 (Vols -6 to -6.5)
  • SP+: Tennessee 27, Kentucky 22 (doesn’t cover)
  • GRT’s SPM: Tennessee 28, Kentucky 20 (covers)
  • Me: Tennessee 31, Kentucky 20 (covers)

Season results on Tennessee games

What do y’all think?

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