The Five Factors: Explaining Tennessee’s 28-27 loss to Florida

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 28-27 loss to Florida follow. 


Formula Explanation: Average yards per play

UT Offense: 6.0 yards per play

UT Defense: Allowed 5.5 yards per play


UT Offense: 5.5 yards per play

UT Defense: Allowed 5.3 yards per play

Commentary:The Vols got one fewer yard on two gadget plays —a double-pass throwback from wide receiver Jauan Jennings to quarterback Joshua Dobbs for a 58-yard touchdown and a 24-yard halfback pass from Alvin Kamara to tight end Ethan Wolf — than they did from the rest of the passing game. The Vols averaged 5.0 yards per carry on the ground, though, including a 62-yard run by Dobbs. The Gators got 110 of their 392 total yards on two plays, a 47-yard run by Kelvin Taylor and the game-winning 63-yard touchdown reception by Antonio Callaway.


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: 45.7 percent success rate

UT Defense: Allowed 40.8 percent success rate


UT Offense: 47.2 percent success rate

UT Defense: Allowed 40.9 percent success rate

Commentary: Eight of Florida’s 29 successful plays came on its penultimate drive when the Gators converted two fourth downs in a 17-play, 86-yard scoring march. Three of Tennessee’s second-half possessions did not include a successful play. 

Average Field Position

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

UT Offense: Own 24.4 yard line

Florida: Own 27.6 yard line


UT Offense: Own 36.9 yard line

UT Opponents: Own 23 yard line

Commentary: Tennessee had dominated the field position battle for the season’s first three weeks. On Saturday, the Vols finally lost it and did so by a substantial margin. For the first time this season, Tennessee did not start at least one drive beyond its own 45-yard line. The Gators started a drive at the Tennessee 29 thanks to defensive end Bryan Cox’s fumble recovery. 

Finishing Drives

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

UT Offense: 4.0 points per trip

UT Defense: Allowed 5.25 points per trip


UT Offense: 4.4 points per trip

UT Defense: Allowed 4.1 points per trip

Commentary: Tennessee had to settle for two field goals on its four red zone drives, though it scored touchdowns on the two others. Florida never had to attempt a field goal. It’s only drive to the 40 that didn’t end up in a touchdown led to an interception by Tennessee’s LaDarrell McNeil. 

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: Even

Projected Turnover Margin: Florida +1


Turnover Margin: UT +5

Projected Turnover Margin: UT +4.25

Commentary: Florida and Tennessee’s turnovers were not created even in this game. Bryan Cox’s fumble recovery put the Gators at the Tennessee 29 and led to a touchdown. LaDarrell McNeil’s interception put the Vols at their own 11-yard line. It may have stopped a scoring drive by Florida, but the Vols gained just 1 yard on the ensuing drive and had to punt.