Statistical Check Favors Alabama

Those who put little stock in a statistical comparison of football teams would have a field day pointing to some rankings in this week's Southeastern Conference compilations.

No one would be surprised that Alabama ranks much higher than Tennessee in the critical offensive and defensive categories. After all, Bama is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC games and ranked second in the nation. The Volunteers are 3-3 overall and 0-3 in league contests. The Crimson Tide is ranked second in the nation and is a heavy favorites to defeat the Vols Saturday.

Alabama will host Tennessee at 6:21 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN2 will televise the game.

Alabama is expected to have all key players available. Tennessee, however, is not expected to have sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray, who ranks first in the league in passing offense, first in the SEC in passing efficiency, and first in the conference in total offense. That changes not only the realistic expectations for Tennessee's offense, but also affects areas such as third down efficiency and red zone success.

Here's a look at how the teams have done through the first seven weeks of play (with Tennessee having already had a bye week.

There are multiple scoreboards in almost every football stadium providing the most important statistical information, which is the score. Alabama does quite well in that regard, leading the league in scoring at 39.7 points per game and in scoring defense at 7.0 points per game. Tennessee is sixth in scoring, 28.3 points per game, and ninth in scoring defense, giving up 23.3 points per game.

Run the ball and stop the run, is considered a recipe for success. Bama leads the league in rushing at 241.6 yards per game and 24 touchdowns, and is first in rushing defense, permitting an unheard of 38.1 yards per game and two touchdowns. The Volunteers are 12th in the conference in rushing, 89 yards per game and seven touchdowns, and eighth in rushing defensive, permitting 155.8 yards and eight TDs.

Tennessee with Bray ranks second in the league in passing offense, 294 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. The Tide is fourth in the league, 219 yards per game and eight TDs. Alabama is second in passing defense, allowing 146 yards per game and four touchdowns. The Vols are seventh, giving up 194.5 yards per game and eight touchdowns.

In passing efficiency, Tennessee is third, Bama fifth. In pass defense efficiency, the Tide is first and the Vols 12th.

Bama is second in the SEC in total offense, less than six yards per game behind Arkansas with Alabama averaging 460.6 yards per game and scoring 33 touchdowns. The Volunteers are fifth in total offense, 383 yards per game and 21 touchdowns. In total defense, Alabama is number one, giving up only 184.1 yards per game and six touchdowns. Tennessee is eighth, giving up 350.3 yards per game and 16 touchdowns.

As recently as this week, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said the statistic that most affects winning and losing is turnover margin. Bama is tied for third in the league at plus five. Tennessee is 10th at minus three.

Coaches also look at red zone efficiency. Tennessee is third best in the league at scoring when reaching the opponent 20 at 92 per cent (23-25) with 18 touchdowns and 5-6 field goals. Alabama is fourth best at 88.2 per cent (30-34) on 21 touchdowns and 9-11 field goals.

On defense, Bama is number one, allowing only 66.7 per cent (6-9) with five touchdowns and 1-2 field goals. The Vols are 11th defensively, allowing 90.5 per cent (19-21) with 12 touchdowns and 7-7 field goals.

Tennessee has been best in the league in third down conversions, 44-81 for 54.3 per cent. Alabama is second with 47-92 for 51.1 per cent. On defense, Bama is third, holding opponents to 30-107 for 28 per cent. The Vols are sixth, 28-78 for 35.9 per cent.

Alabama is first in the league in first downs, 156, and Tennessee seventh, 131. Bama is also first in holding opponents from making first downs, 73, while the Vols are fourth, allowing 107.

Although Saban has said sacks aren't a meaningful statistic in winning, he probably doesn't mind that Alabama leads the league in sacks with 15 for 110 yards in losses. Tennessee is 11th with nine for 57 yards. Neither gets sacked much, the Vols second best in the league at 10, Alabama tied for third at 11.

Alabama leads the league in kickoff returns, but is last in kickoff coverage. The Vols are fifth in returns, sixth in coverage. In punt returns, Bama is third, Tennessee fifth. In net punting, Alabama is a poor 10th, the Vols a poorer 12th.

Alabama is second in of possession, 32:46, Tennessee fifth, 31:21.

Alabama tailback Trent Richardson leads the SEC in rushing (120.3 yards per game), touchdowns 16, scoring 13.7 points per game, and all-purpose yardage 162 points per game.

Bama linebacker Courtney Upshaw is best in the conference at tackles for loss with 10 primary stops and one assist.

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