Five Factor Box Score: Tennessee vs. Florida Review


The Five Factor Tracker later is still coming later in the week to show how Tennessee and the teams on their schedule are progressing over the year as a whole in the five factors most correlated to winning in college football. But I thought we should look at how Tennessee does head-to-head in the five factors each week--so introducing: the Five Factors Box Score, adapted from the advanced box scores at Wanna guess how Tennessee did against Florida?

Despite all the red on UT's side here. it's actually not as bad as you'd think. 

The Vols did lose in four of the five categories. But starting field position was close enough to be a wash; think about how much UF's starting field position was helped on just one drive by Joe Milton's arm punt INT. And for the first time this season, Tennessee won the explosiveness battle. Oddly enough, explosiveness is the factor most highly correlated with winning (the team that wins the explosiveness battle wins 85% of the time according to the research), but here UT's first loss of the season was also the first time the Vols bettered the opposition in explosiveness. 

Success rate is really the fulcrum when it comes to explosiveness. You could have one really explosive play and technically win the explosiveness battle, but if it's only one play, your success rate is in the crapper and you probably lost the game. A 32% success rate is going to get you killed in most SEC games because it means you're spending 2/3 of the game playing behind the chains. In comparison, Tennessee had a 57% success rate in the win against Florida last season. 

The other glaring number is points per opportunity. A year ago, UT was finishing drives in the endzone. The modern game heavily favors offense, and you're just not going to win games with a PPO closer to FG value than TD value. 

In the offseason I discovered the concept of offensive line stats. Naturally, after a game where I perceived the o-line as playing poorly, I wanted to see what the stats say. And while the stats don't say Tennessee's line played well, the stats also don't say the Vols played any worse than Florida's line. 

That 100% power success rate for UF is just one play, the 1-yard Graham Mertz touchdown run in the 2nd quarter. Notice that Tennessee stuffed 1/3 of Florida's runs at the line, compared to just 14% of the Vols' runs being stuffed. UT was getting a good push at the line and still doing ok at the second level, but the Gators crushed Tennessee in open field yards. Granted, they had a 62-yard TD run which accounted for a ton of those 80 open field yards. But Tennessee's RBs simply are not breaking into that last level of the defense at all. Jaylin Wright and Jabari Small do a lot of things well, but the Vols have to find some runners who are more dynamic when it comes to finding open field to run in. 

One last place to look at for answers is in player usage and predicted points added. Here's Florida's top five players by usage and their PPA broken down a few different ways. 

Consider how poorly UF played in the 3rd quarter, as evidenced by these numbers. The game was there for the taking, if Tennessee could've found a way to capitalize. 

And for Tennessee:

In the game preview, I postulated that you'd like for UF to run their read options with Mertz puling the ball to run himself. While I still think I was technically right, Mertz finished with 3.8 PPA rushing, more than any Vol back and almost 4x what Joe Milton finished with rushing. At one point in the 3rd quarter, on 3rd-and-inches, Tennessee ran a jet sweep to Bru McCoy rather than have their 6'5, 240-pound QB sneak ahead for the 1st. It's possible that UT didn't want to run the sneak behind backup center Ollie Lane, but considering the low 14% stuff rate Tennessee had in the game, it seemed more like a referendum on Milton's ability to get that yard when needed. You should probably tuck that info away for later recall, and go ahead and make your peace with it.

In looking back at these numbers, what it really comes down to is Tennessee played a poor football game. But Florida certainly didn't play well either, and they gave the Vols plenty of opportunities to take the game over, especially in the third quarter. Tennessee just never seemed to grab the chance when it presented itself. I do like how Tennessee competed in the second half when they could've just rolled over. Those runs where the offensive line was shoving the entire pile downfield showed grit. But grit alone isn't going to beat the schedule UT has in front of them, the level of play has to match. 


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