The Five Factors: Explaining Tennessee’s 55-10 win over Western Carolina

Advanced college football statisticians believe there are five factors that most accurately determine what teams win games: explosiveness, efficiency, field position, finishing drives, and turnover margin. They have come up with statistical formulas to measure those factors beyond what can be found in a typical box score. This season, we will be following Tennessee’s progress game-by-game using these formulas. The Vols’ figures for Saturday’s 55-10 win over Western Carolina and season totals follow.


Formula Explanation: Average yards per play

UT Offense: 5.7 yards per play

UT Defense: Allowed 5.1 yards per play


UT Offense: 5.4 yards per play

UT Defense: Allowed 5.2 yards per play

Commentary:The Vols only had four offensive plays over 20 yards, but that included an impressive 49-yard pass from freshman Quinten Dormady to freshman Preston Williams. Western Carolina’s Detrez Newsome had runs of 64 yards and 44 yards. Take out those plays, and Western Carolina averaged 3.2 yards per play. 


Formula Explanation: Success rate gives an offense a point every time it gains 50 percent of the necessary yards on first down, 70 percent of the necessary yards on second down and 100 percent of the necessary yards on third or fourth down. Total points divided by the total number of plays is the success rate.

UT Offense: 52.5 percent success rate

UT Defense: Allowed 32.7 percent success rate


UT Offense: 47.7 percent success rate

UT Defense: Allowed 40.9 percent success rate

Commentary: Western Carolina had three successful plays on its first drive, but didn’t have another until the 2:53 mark of the second quarter. Tennessee had 29 successful first-half plays to Western Carolina’s seven.

Average Field Position

Formula Explanation: The average spot on the field where each team started its offensive drives.

UT Offense: Own 47.3 yard line

Western Carolina: Own 21.6 yard line


UT Offense: Own 40.4 yard line

UT Opponents: Own 21.6 yard line

Commentary: thanks to a kickoff return and punt return for touchdowns and three turnovers, Tennessee started five possessions in Western Carolina territory and three more beyond its own 40-yard line. Thanks to UT punter Trevor Daniel, Western Carolina started seven drives inside its own 20

Finishing Drives

Formula Explanation: Points per trip inside the opponent’s 40-yard line.

UT Offense: 5.1 points per trip

UT Defense: Allowed 1.5 points per trip


UT Offense: 4.5 points per trip

UT Defense: Allowed 3.8 points per trip

Commentary: Western Carolina only got inside the 40 twice, scoring their only touchdown from 64 yards out. Tennessee had to settle for two field goals in the red zone, including one from the Western Carolina 1, but the Vols scored on seven of eight trips inside the 40.

Turnover Margin/Projected Turnover Margin

Formula: Turnover Margin is what it usually is. Projected turnover margin tries to measure and factor out luck by presuming one recovered fumble for every two caused fumbles and an interception for every four pass breakups

Turnover Margin: UT +3.

Projected Turnover Margin: UT +2.75


Turnover Margin: UT +5

Projected Turnover Margin: UT +5.25

Commentary: The Vols recovered a pair of fumbles and safety LaDarrell McNeil’s interception and 57-yard return set the Vols up at the 8-yard line to score one play later.