Comparing Bama, Vols Statistically

Playing Tennessee in football is something like going for a colonoscopy. You know you have to do it. You know there is a good chance it will be unpleasant. You have to prepare. You know you are going to be better off for having done it. And the closer it gets, the scarier the proposition.

Alabama's appointment with Tennessee is near. The Crimson Tide, 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play, goes to Knoxville to play the Volunteers, 3-4 and 1-3, Saturday in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN. Kickoff in Neyland Stadium will be at 7:45 p.m. EDT (6:45 central time).

Alabama is ranked second in the nation with high profile wins over Clemson and Georgia. The Vols have been victims of a difficult schedule, losing road games at UCLA, Auburn and Georgia and a home contest to Florida. Tennessee is coming off its best outing of the year, a 34-3 win over Mississippi State.

As of late, Tennessee has changed quarterbacks. Nick Stephens has taken over for Jonathan Crompton, who started the season number one. Although that's considered an improvement for the Vols' offense, the passing statistics remain uncharacteristically low for Tennessee.

Stephens has completed 34 of 69 passes (49.3 per cent) for 542 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Crompton had completed 64 of 123 passes (52 per cent) for 658 yards and two touchdowns, but suffered four interceptions.

The Vols rank eighth in the SEC in passing offense at 171.4 yards per game. They'll be going up an Alabama pass defense that is 11th in the SEC, allowing 209.9 yards per game. On the other hand, Alabama ranks 10th in the league in passing offense, 161.9 yards per game, and the Vols are fifth in the league in passing defense, allowing 171.3 yards per game.

Tennessee's pass defense is really better than yards allowed because the Vols have turned in 14 inteceptions this season.

Alabama leads the conference in rushing offense at 209.3 yards per game, but the Crimson Tide will be going up against a tough run defense. Tennessee ranks third in the league in rushing defense, allowing just 95.7 yards per game. Tennessee doesn't have much rushing offense to date, ranking ninth in the SEC at 124.5 yards per game, and the Vols will be going up against Bama's second-in-the-SEC rushing defense, 66.1 yards per game.

A minus for Alabama regarding run defense is that the Tide will be without starting nose tackle Terrence Cody.

Alabama ranks fifth in total offense, 371.1 yards per game, and Tennessee second in total defense, allowing 267 yards per game. The Vols are ninth in total offense, 296 yards per game, and Bama sixth in total defense, allowing 276 yards per game. (Note there is only nine yards per game difference in Tennessee's second place defensive rank and Bama's sixth-place standing.)

The name of the game is scoring. Alabama ranks second in scoring offense, 32.3 points per game, and Tennessee is fifth in scoring defense, allowing 16 points per game. The Vols are ninth in the conference in scoring, 19.7 points per game, and Bama is fourth in scoring defense, permitting 14.4 points per game.

One surprise is that Alabama ranks ahead of Tennessee—a traditionally great kicking team—in both punting and field goals. But that's deceiving because punter Britton Colquitt, who averages 46.4 yards per punt, is back after serving an early season suspension. Before Colquitt returned, the Vols were averaging just 39.5 yards per punt. Alabama averages 40.6 yards per punt. Leigh Tiffin gives Bama a field goal advantage. He's 10-14, including the longest in the league (54 yards), while Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln is 7-12 with a long of 47.

It has frequently been pointed out that coaches consider takeaway-turnover difference, third down efficiency and Red Zone success as critical statistics.

Alabama and Tennessee are close in takeaway-turnover, Bama plus six and the Vols plus four. The Tide has recovered five fumbles and turned in 10 interceptions, given up six fumbles and four interceptions. Tennessee, surprisingly, does not have a fumble recovery takeaway, all Vols' takeaways the 14 interceptions. Tennessee has lost six fumbles and suffered four interceptions.

Alabama has been considerably better on third downs than has Tennessee. Bama ranks fourth in third down conversions, 39-90 for 43.3 per cent and the Tide ranks second in defense on third downs, allowing 27-102 for 26.5 per cent. The Vols are ninth in third down efficiency, 34-97 for 35.1 per cent and Tennessee is 11th in third down defense, allowing 44-109 for 40.4 per cent.

Alabama is sixth in Red Zone offense success, scoring 23 of 28 times for 82.1 per cent. Bama has 15 touchdowns (11 rushing, four passing) and has made 8-10 field goals and has two turnovers. Tennessee is ninth in Red Zone offense with scores on 18 of 24 opportunities, 12 touchdowns (eight rushing, four passing) and 6-8 field goals with three turnovers.

Tennessee has the advantage in Red Zone defense. The Vols have allowed 16 scores in 22 opportunities by opponents (seven touchdowns and 9-11 field goals) for 72.7 per cent. This statistic is slightly misleading because Bama has allowed opponents into the Red Zone only 12 times, but has given up 10 scores, five touchdowns and 5-6 field goals, for 83.3 per cent.

Alabama is second in the league in fewest penalties, 34 penalties for 274 yards, 39.1 yards per game, and Tennessee is 10th, 46 penalties for 400 yards, 57.1 yards per game.

Alabama leads the league in time of possession, keeping the ball for 32:44 per game, and Tennessee is last, 27:28.

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