Will the Vols cover against Mississippi State?

The Bulldogs opened as a 6.5-point favorite over Tennessee, and the line has now moved to 7. Will the Vols cover against Mississippi State?

The SPM’s performance so far in 2019

The SPM went 26-20 (56.52%) in Week 6 on all games. Above the pre-chosen confidence level it was 12-4 (75%) and within the pre-chosen confidence range it was 5-2 (71.43%). That’s a bit odd, as it’s usually better in the range than just over the threshold, but there you are.

For the season, the SPM is doing well in its feel-good spots but still playing catch up overall. It’s 132-143 (48%) overall, 66-58 (53.23%) above the confidence level, and 33-20 (62.26%) within the confidence range. The SPM was feeling confident last week when it predicted that Georgia would cover the 25.5-point spread, and to our dismay it was right.

So what does the SPM have to say about the Tennessee-Mississippi State game? Let’s have a look.

Vols-Bulldogs

From the perspective of Mississippi State

Bulldogs points:

  • Mississippi State scoring offense for the season: 30.2
  • Tennessee scoring defense for the season: 28.8

The Tennessee scoring defense is most similar to the following prior Mississippi State opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • Southern Mississippi 30.4
  • Kentucky 24.4

Mississippi State scored 28 points against Kentucky and 38 points against Southern Mississippi. So, against the two best comps, Mississippi State is scoring 1.2 of what those teams usually give up.

Estimated points for Mississippi State against Tennessee: 34.6

Tennessee points:

  • Tennessee scoring offense for the season: 23.6
  • Mississippi State scoring defense for the season: 28.6

The Tennessee scoring offense is most similar to the following prior Mississippi State opponent(s):

  • Kentucky 23.4
  • Southern Mississippi 27.6

Against Kentucky, Mississippi State allowed 13 points, and against Southern Mississippi, they allowed 15, meaning Mississippi State allowed only 0.55 of what those teams usually score.

Estimated points for Tennessee against Mississippi State: 13

Estimated score: Mississippi State 34.6, Tennessee 13

From the perspective of Tennessee

Tennessee points:

  • Tennessee scoring offense for the season: 23.6
  • Mississippi State scoring defense for the season: 28.6

The Mississippi State scoring defense is most similar to the following prior Tennessee opponent(s) (FBS only):

  • BYU 31.2
  • Georgia State 40.8

Tennessee scored 26 points against BYU and 30 points against Georgia State, which means that Tennessee scored 0.78 of what those teams usually give up.

Estimated points for Tennessee against Mississippi State: 22.3

Mississippi State points:

  • Mississippi State scoring offense for the season: 30.2
  • Tennessee scoring defense for the season: 28.8

The Mississippi State scoring offense is most similar to the following prior Tennessee opponent(s):

  • Florida 32.3
  • Georgia State 36.4

Tennessee allowed 34 points to Florida and 38 points to Georgia State. So, against the two best comps, Tennessee allowed 1.05 of what those teams usually score.

Estimated points for Mississippi State against Tennessee: 31.7

Estimated score: Tennessee 22.3, Mississippi State 31.7

SPM Final Estimates

Tossing all of that into the soup, here’s what the SPM cooks up:

SPM Final estimated score: Mississippi State 33.2, Tennessee 17.6

SPM Final estimated spread: Mississippi State -15.6

SPM Confidence level: 9.1

That 9.1 confidence level is in the confidence range that the SPM likes the best this season. In other words, this is one of its favorite picks this week. SPM, I hated you last week, and I hate you again this week.

Eyeball adjustments

Here’s the thing. The SPM is for the most part blissfully unaware of Mississippi State’s game against Auburn. It’s accounted for in the Bulldogs’ offensive and defensive scoring numbers for the year, but it is completely ignored as a comp. Whether it should be or not is, of course, the question. Tennessee is not Auburn. But whether that game revealed some exploitable vulnerability, well, that is the question. The SPM also doesn’t know the names “Jarrett Guarantano” or “Brian Maurer” or how either of those names translates into points.

With that, I’m torn. I trust the machine in that confidence range, but over 15 just seems too high. If I was picking this game with my eyes closed and computer off, I’d probably go with 20 points for the Vols and 24-27 for the Bulldogs. So, my eyeball-adjusted prediction is Mississippi State 27, Tennessee 20, a spread of 7. That’s still a prediction that the Vols won’t cover. I now hate myself, too.

Other predictions from other systems

The Vegas line opened with Mississippi State a 6.5-point favorite, and it has now moved to 7. The over/under of 53 translates to Mississippi State 30, Tennessee 23. ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols a 35% chance of winning.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ likes Georgia, 31-25, and gives the Vols a 37% chance of winning. That’s a spread of -6, so it’s picking Tennessee to cover. SP+ cooled just a wee bit last week, going 26-22 (54%) overall, but it’s still hot enough to scorch at 58% on the season. As I said earlier, our SPM is only 48% on the season, but it was 56.52% this week. It’s over 62% in our feel-good range.

Bottom line

Both I and the SPM think the Vols fail to cover the opening 6.5-point spread this week.

What do y’all think?

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Joel HollingsworthJayyyyAndrew CooperIsaac BishopHarley Recent comment authors
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Harley
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Harley

My gut tells me Vols win it 27 – 24. Home field, new/improving QB play, playmakers finally making some plays on defense, special teams are more focused, and a little healthier on defense. I am not a big numbers guys on close games and where emotion can play such an important role. Go Vols!

Isaac Bishop
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Isaac Bishop

Cover and win. I think we’re going to score a bunch of points and I’m going to predict at least 4 TDs including a couple coming in the second half. This is going to be our first true game with a great balance of pass and run which leads us to charge out of the gates early and hold off State for the rest of the game.

Final score of probably 31-27 Vols with State scoring a TD late in the 4th.

Andrew Cooper
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Andrew Cooper

There are apparently optimists here. I’ve been burned too often at this point. I’ll start believing we can win games when we actually win some games. I really hope it starts coming together for this team but I don’t have any faith in it.

Jayyyy
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Jayyyy

great stuff joel (although i hope the spm is wrong). minor revisions to make to all your percentages: should be 55% not 0.55% or just 0.55