Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The “science” behind the coming beat down of September 19th.

A friend recently forwarded me this amusing piece in which the author predicts a betting line on the Florida – Tennessee game of 37 points in favor of the Gators.

Funny stuff indeed.

But is it accurate?

I figured what better to reacclimatize myself to college football blogging than diving headfirst into the SEC controversy de jour – the war of words between Kiffin and Meyer, and what effect that will have on the September 19 contest at Florida. And better yet, do so statistically.

So how to predict what the score at the Swamp might look like? I would suggest we look at last year’s stats, make an educated assessment about this year’s returning players, then come up with a solution. Let’s start with last year’s game, a 30-6 win by the Gators at Neyland.

By “holding” Florida to a mere 30 points last year the Vols had one of the better defensive performances against the Gators of any team in 2008, exceeded by only the 28 points by Miami and the 24 of Oklahoma (and tied with the 30 in the loss to Ole Miss). Moreover Tennessee did an excellent job of overall defense, holding Florida to only 243 yards, the best performance against the Gators all year, and 202 yards better than Florida’s season average of 445.

Tennessee’s defense was excellent last year, ranking 10th in the nation in scoring defense, and 3rd in total defense. But defense wasn’t the Vols problem.

Against Florida offensively Tennessee had 258 yards, scoring only 6 points on a single TD (with a missed extra point). That 258 yards was pretty close to par for the Vols last year as they averaged a mere 269 yards per game. More disturbing for Tennessee was the scant 17.33 points per game averaged in 2008, ranking them 111th of the 119th FBS teams.

Now let’s take a look at the 2008 averages for both teams, and make our assessments about the coming season.

Tennessee 2008

Offensive Points per Game – 17.33
Defensive Points Given per Game – 16.75

It’s hard to win much with that margin.

Florida 2008

Offensive Points per Game – 43.64
Defensive Points Given per Game – 12.93

That’s right – while Tennessee was great defensively in 08’, Florida was even better.

The Assessments

Tennessee Defense in 2009 –

UT has arguably one of the better defensive players in the SEC in safety Eric Berry, and they return team tackle leader Rico McCoy but lost linebackers Nevin McKenzie and Ellix Wilson. And while the defensive back seven is solid, the defensive line lost first round pick Robert Ayers and tackle Demonte Bolden. New defensive coach Monte Kiffin is a proven commodity, and this should be a solid defensive unit later in the year, but I would think them slightly worse on September 19th due to losses.

Tennessee Offense in 2009 –

Tennessee offense in a word in 2008 – terrible. 110th in the nation in scoring offense, 115th in the nation in total offense, 107th in passing offense and 88th in rushing Vols were anemic at best. Tennessee lost running backs Foster and Creer but is fairly deep at the position. They also lost offensive tackle Ramon Foster from a squad that wasn’t that good to begin with, and the offensive line should be concern in 09’. They return quarterback Jonathan Crompton who was mediocre last season passing for only 889 yards and 4 touchdowns with a QB rating of 98.13 (Tebow, by way of contrast, had 2746 yards, 30 TD’s and a rating of 172.37). It is hard to imagine this unit being much worse than last year, but equally hard to imagine much improvement by September 19th when the playes will have had little time to adjust to Jim Chaney’s new offense. We will call it a draw.

Florida Defense in 2009 –

They are all coming back. Not only are all eleven starters back, but every defensive player that saw any real time returns for one of the nation’s best defenses last season. Florida’s defense should be at least as good next season, though it is hard to improve much from giving up only 12.93 points per game. Let's say, for the sake of argument, they are just as good.

Florida Offense in 2009 –

Florida had the nation’s 4th best scoring offense in 2008, but there were some key losses on this side of the ball in wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. Plus the losses of tackles Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins leave some holes. Though Harvin was a unique talent no doubt, but there is plenty of talent at the position. The loss of the linemen may be harder to overcome. Let’s call the offense slightly worse by the 3rd week in September.

The Intangibles

The Swamp – 90,000 screaming Gators in what will likely be a night game. The last time Tennessee came to Florida in 2007 Meyer and the Gators put a 59-20 smack down on Fulmer and crew. Those 59 points were scored by an offense that wasn’t as good as the 08’ squad, and UT’s 20 points came against one of the worst Gator defenses ever. (In all fairness the 08’ UT defense wasn’t stellar either).

Revenge – Anyone who thinks Meyer – and Tebow – don’t believe in revenge old testament style hasn’t been paying attention. There is little doubt that Mark Richt’s little gimmick of 2007 led directly to the 49-10 Bulldog annihilation of 2008. To gauge how lopsided that Georgia loss was, note it was exactly twice the 24.5 point per game average Georgia surrendered last season.

My Somewhat Scientific Outcome

Florida’s Score = UF managed 30 last year on the road. This year the defense of UT should be slightly worse. So –

30 (last year) + 0 (a wash with slightly worse UT defense, slightly worse UF offense) + 7 (Home/Swamp Factor) + 14 (Revenge Factor) = 51

Tennessee’s Score = 6 (last year) +0 (same UF defense, same UT offense) = 6


Kiffinloo 2009.

Mark it down.

It would be the largest margin of victory in the series. I also bet Meyer is aware of that.


JJO said...

I like the assessment, but I think you're wrong about the last Vols win in the Swamp. Tennessee beat the Gators with Leak as the QB and Zook as the coach in the Swamp. I was there I just can't remember the year. It was an early, hot game and the Gators played particularly awful.

jamie a. said...

agree with the 51, don't agree with the 6.

they could've, should've scored a couple of tds in that game. didn't arian foster fumble on the goal line? didn't they try to quick snap it on 4th and goal or some other crap.

i just remember that we got all over them early, and had their own fans booing them by halftime. i remember such bad breaks that i almost, almost felt sorry for fulmer!

at any rate, i'll just take a W. i don't care what the score is. go gators!

Mergz said...

J- Right you are, I suppose I am prone to blocking out the Zook years. Post is corrected.

jamie a - I confess - much of this post is tongue-in-cheek speculation, at best. Having watched college football as long as I have, I have no real idea what the score will be. However, the point of the post is note that we beat UT last year at Neyland, we return essentially our whole MNC team while UT has key losses, an unproven QB, and a new system. Plus the game is at the Swamp, and the Gators are very motivated.

If it is even close I will be shocked.

ConnGator said...

While I hope for the blowout described above I do not think it will happen. The '08 Tennessee team was demoralized and basically gave up by the second quarter. While I have a pretty low opinion of Kiffin, the one thing he _has_ done it fire up his team and get them thinking they could win.

Florida 42, UT 21

jj gator said...

I would just LOVE to see Gator Nation do the following come 9/19: (1) As we did back in 2007, follow Coach Meyer's request to wear blue, (2) have somebody start a chant of "KIFFIN SUCKS" among the Gator fans gathered there, and (3) just plain beat the living shit out of those inbred, drunken, toothless, Rocky-Top singing, illiterate Jethro Nation of uncouth hillbillies.

GO GATORS!!!!!!!

sb said...

I disagree...a fired up team doesn't necessarily translate to a good team...look at Richt's UGA teams...what has a fired up dawg team done in Jax annually?

Also, when assembling a team of coaches, a la reFSU's "world class" staff, noted for their recruiting prowess and personalities, the overlooked aspect is player development, without which player on-field production suffers. Talent may win some games, but talent and coaching brings home championships.

While Kiffie may fire up his players and, via Vulcan mind-meld, or hypnotism, convince them they can beat Florida, saying it and believing it don't make it so...and those who were there last year will quickly convince those who weren't that '09 is '08 all over again...

I think it could get better than 51-6...

Scotty #13 said...

The Gators should win...that much is certain. All else is fun and games guessing, though I agree with most of the assessment. Anyone can beat you in the SEC, and when you're sure you can't lose is when you will be defeated.

If the Gators come prepared, they should mangle UToothless.

wsmitheGH said...

I like your take on this. Gators are definitely going to get the W this time.

Florida Football Housing at!