What the SPM comps say about Tennessee-BYU

The SPM finished Week 1 (and Week 0) at a modest 28-27 (50.91%) on all games. Above the magic confidence level, it went 20-13 (60.61%) and within the magic confidence range, it went 13-4 (76.47%).

Like everyone else and their dog, it was shocked — SHOCKED! — at the outcome of the Tennessee-Georgia State game, although I will say that it was not nearly as wrong as the rest of us. Tennessee was a 25.5-point favorite, and the SPM liked the Vols only by 11.6. It didn’t predict Tennessee to lose, but it warned that they wouldn’t cover.

Tennessee vs. BYU

So, what does the SPM say about the Vols’ game against BYU Saturday? Bottom line, it thinks Vegas hit the nail firmly on the head with a swift single strike of a sledgehammer. Don’t play this one, is what it’s saying, as it has near-zero confidence in it.

The SPM draws on a great deal of data this week. We’re still relying mostly on 2018 data and doing so from each team’s perspective, but we’re sprinkling in what little data we have for 2019, also from each team’s perspective. Here’s what comes out of that pot once it’s stewed a while.

The 2018 data

From the 2018 BYU perspective, Tennessee’s defense looks like Arizona and Northern Illinois (woo) and Tennessee’s offense looks like Cal and New Mexico State. The estimated score from that angle is Tennessee 19, BYU 15.

From the 2018 Tennessee perspective, BYU’s defense looks most like Florida and Georgia (woo) and their offense looks like Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The estimated score for that is Tennessee 20.1, BYU 19.6. Tie game, basically.

The built-in year-to-year adjustment has BYU as being somewhat worse this year than last. Regarding Tennessee, the jury was nearly back with good news when it saw the team coughing up blood in the hall and returned with haste to re-deliberate. (The machine still thinks they’re much better this year than last. Or rather, should be, and is accounting for that assumption.)

Throwing all of that into the pot and cooking it up, the estimated score using 2018 data is Vols 19.5, Cougars 17.2, meaning Tennessee -2.3.

The 2019 data

There’s only one comp for each team so far in 2019, so that data is weighed accordingly. The result is Tennessee 30, BYU 25, but again, it’s not assigned much weight.

SPM Final Estimates

SPM Final estimated score: Tennessee 22.1, BYU 19.2

SPM Final estimated spread: Tennessee -2.9

SPM Confidence level: .1

That confidence level has a decimal, which is SPM-speak for “Nope.”

Eyeball adjustments

Remember last week when I said I wasn’t buying the SPM’s estimate from Georgia State’s perspective? You know, the one that estimated a score of 37-36.6, Panthers? Buyer’s remorse is real.

I’m inclined to trust the machine on this one, as the results seem to be pretty consistent among all of the different angles. If there’s an adjustment to be made, it’s on the defensive side for Tennessee. It won’t take many runs into a defensive front with everybody lined up offstage to get out of hand in a hurry. On the other hand, I do think (hope!) we’re going to see a different team this week.

So, I’m pretty much sticking with the machine for this one but converting the math into actual football numbers. I’m going with Tennessee 23, BYU 20. I’m also guarding my sanity by bracing against the very real possibility that BYU scores a lot more points than that.

Other predictions from other systems

The Vegas line opened at 3 but has now crept up to between 3.5 and 4 with an over/under of 52.5. That basically translates to Tennessee 28, BYU 24.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ (formerly S&P+) likes Tennessee 42-33 and gives the Vols a 70% chance of winning. Connelly was 59% overall in Week 1 and 64% for games in which the difference between SP+ and the spread was three or more points.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols a 72.9% chance of winning.

So, will the Vols cover this week? Don’t bet on it.

What are y’all thinking?

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they don’t have a choice, they have to. i shudder thinking about what it would be like to lose again this week


I think your analysis makes a lot sense. I am at a complete loss as to how to forecast this Vols Team. It does seem BYU will put more points on the board vs. last week (12) and given our defensive play last week. Our offense has the “potential’ to be explosive if JG can settle down and get in rhythm with a great set of wide receivers. Our special teams seem to be solid. I would guess that the over/under is light by about 6 points. Hope we see a complete turnaround Saturday. Go Vols!