Five Factors: Explaining Tennessee’s 19-8 win over Missouri

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 19-8 win over Missouri follow.


Formula Explanation: Average yards per play

UT Offense: 4.4 yards per play

UT Defense: Allowed 3.8 yards per play


UT Offense: 5.5 yards per play

UT Defense: Allowed 5.3 yards per play

Commentary: Tennessee threw for just 89 yards in the game, but gashed Missouri in the running game, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Missouri had four throws go for 22 yards or more, but those four passes accounted for almost half of the Tigers’ 223 total yards.


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: 32.9 percent success rate (25-for-76)

UT Defense: Allowed 28.8 percent success rate (17-for-59)


UT Offense: 43.0 percent success rate (356-for-828)

UT Defense: Allowed 38.3 percent success rate (293-for-764)

Commentary: Missouri had just one successful offensive play in the first quarter, five in the first half and seven in the first three quarters. The Tigers had the least efficient offensive performance of any Tennessee opponent this season. Even Western Carolina and North Texas had more successful plays. The Vols, though, had just eight successful plays in the second half.


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

UT Offense: Own 38.8 yard line

Missouri: Own 19.4 yard line


UT Offense: Own 34.2 yard line

UT Opponents: Own 26.3 yard line

Commentary: Tennessee’s first four drives started at its own 44 or closer to the Missouri goalline, and the Vols never started inside their own 20. The Tigers started inside their own 15 six times and inside their own 10 four times, a credit to Tennessee’s defense and punter Trevor Daniel.


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

UT Offense: 2.7 points per trip (19 points on seven trips)

UT Defense: Allowed 4.0 points per trip (Eight points on two trips)


UT Offense: 4.04 points per trip (303 points on 75 trips)

UT Defense: Allowed 3.84 points per trip (177 points on 46 trips)

Commentary: Missouri’s edge here is obviously misleading. The Tigers reached the 40 just once before the fourth quarter and fumbled when they did. The Vols, though, saw four red zone drives stall, taking field goals on three of them and missing a fourth, scoring just one touchdown in five chances.


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: UT +2

Projected Turnover Margin: UT +0.75


Turnover Margin: UT +2

Projected Turnover Margin: UT +2.75

Commentary: An interception led to Tennessee’s first field goal and also killed the only promising drive of Missouri’s first half.


Tennessee coach Butch Jones said all week that he expected this to be a field position game, and he was right. The Vols domination in that category allowed them to score points with a modest amount of offensive efficiency, and allowed Missouri to breach Tennessee territory on just three of its 14 possessions. The fact that the Vols failed to score touchdowns on four of their five red zone drives was mitigated by the fact that Missouri only reached the red zone once.