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 24-0 win over North Texas follow.
Formula Explanation: Average yards per play
UT Offense: 5.4 yards per play
UT Defense: Allowed 3.4 yards per play
UT Offense: 5.6 yards per play
UT Defense: Allowed 5.4 yards per play
Commentary: Tennessee didn’t have a play that went for more than 27 yards, but North Texas didn’t have one that went for more than 16. North Texas averaged just 2.9 yards per carry ad 4.1 yards per pass attempt.
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: 44.9 percent success rate (35-for-76)
UT Defense: Allowed 34.5 percent success rate (20-for-58)
UT Offense: 44.0 percent success rate (331-752)
UT Defense: Allowed 39.5 percent success rate (276-705)
Commentary: Tennessee was successful on 19 of its 38 first-half plays, but strung its unsuccessful plays together, stalling at the North Texas 30 and the North Texas 6 with three straight inefficient plays on both possessions. North Texas had 10 successful plays in each half, and had a few moderately successful drives, but none of them crossed the Tennessee 40.
Average Field Position
Formula Explanation: The average spot on the field where each team started its offensive drives.
UT Offense: Own 34.1 yard line
North Texas: Own 20.6 yard line
UT Offense: Own 34.3 yard line
UT Opponents: Own 27.0 yard line
Commentary: North Texas skykicked its only kickoff to avoid Tennessee kickoff returner Evan Berry, but still lost the field position battle badly. The Vols started three drives in North Texas territory. Thanks to Tennessee punter Trevor Daniel (and also to an interception thrown by quarterback Joshua Dobbs) the Mean Green started three drives inside its own 10 and six inside their own 15.
Formula Explanation: Points per trip inside the opponent’s 40-yard line.
UT Offense: 4.0 points per trip (24 points on six trips)
UT Defense: Allowed zero points per trip (Zero points on zero trips)
UT Offense: 4.17 points per trip (284 points on 68 trips)
UT Defense: Allowed 3.8 points per trip (169 points on 44 trips)
Commentary: North Texas never crossed the Tennessee 45-yard line. Not even when they started a fourth-quarter drive at the Tennessee 48. The Vols scored three touchdowns, but had three drives stall inside the North Texas 40 and only got a field goal on, punting from the North Texas 35 and throwing an interception from the North Texas 20 in the second.
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 breakup
Turnover Margin: NT +1
Projected Turnover Margin: UT +0.25
Turnover Margin: Even
Projected Turnover Margin: UT +2.0
Commentary: Tennessee had a drive-killing interception at the end of the first half that kept the Vols from putting the game away before the break. They caused two fumbles, but didn’t come up with either.
The Vols weren’t nearly as efficient as they should have been, they missed opportunities inside the North Texas 40 and they didn’t take as much advantage of their large field-position edge as they should have. However, none of that matters if your opponent doesn’t breach your 45-yard line.