What correlates to winning and losing a football game?
In other sports, particularly baseball, the use of certain descriptive and analytical statistics has been a developing subject for nearly 40 years (Sabermetrics). However, it is a relatively new endeavor for football. The book The Hidden Game of Football, the highly influential book published in 1988, is considered by many as the first systematic statistical approach to analyzing football in a book. Now there are subscription services, websites, blogs, and other media outlets that assess football games with statistics that have been further developed beyond what Pete Palmer, Bob Carroll and John Thorn started with their 1988 book. The website Football Outsiders is probably thought of as the leader in this arena of assessing the relative rankings of teams and game performances.
Borrowing some ideas from these sources, as well as using some more obvious numerical descriptions, I thought I’d take a crack at examining last Saturday’s Florida-Tennessee game with numbers beyond what you normally find in the game’s box score. All of the tallies and calculations are my own and thus any inaccuracies are due to the same type of errors that caused this author to make B’s in stead of A’s in calculus in two of my three quarters of classes in Ayres Hall.
There are a lot of cliches involved when it comes to certain situations that arise in life, including sports, and how those situations are handled. Saturday in Knoxville presented an experiment for how an individual, or a group of people such as a college football team, responds when things don’t go their way.
It was just another physio-psychological experiment colored in orange and white.
Much of the response is learned behavior. Yes, there is physical ability, strength, and technique. But the missing leg to a stable chair is the mental strength. Part of that is within the makeup of a person. However, conditioning (psychological) is involved. Scenarios defined as adversity are presented, and actions are implemented in response. Each individual plays his role and all is melded into the group, either positively or negatively.
Robert Neyland knew this well, so well infact that he addressed it with one of his Seven Game Maxims. Maxim No. 3 says, ”If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam.”
Easier said than done.
It is the Tennessee Volunteers that are running an up-tempo, no-huddle, blitzkrieg offense instead of the Florida Gators whose offensive strategy is to slow the tempo down and milk the play clock as much as possible.
A shift in the balance of offensive weapons.
Tennessee couldn’t take advantage of Florida’s numerous penalties in Gainesville on Saturday, and couldn’t stop the speed of Chris Rainey, in the Vols’ 7th consecutive loss to the Gators. The difference in this year’s version of these two rival squads is greater than the final score spread.
It looked like more of the same from the horrors of the last few seasons against Florida.
Nothing said it more than the first half of the third quarter. Read More…
ESPN’s Chris Low is picking Florida, 34-24, because (1) Florida’s big-play potential [doesn't Tennessee have big-play potential?] and (2) the superiority of the Gator special teams. He adds that a key for Tennesse will be for Bray and Co. to gain lots of yards on first down. Amen on that one.
Contemplating the Vols’ visit to Gainesville this Saturday made me think about the last visit to The Swamp. Many predicted the No.1 Gators would destroy Tennessee that day and give Lane Kiffin the spanking that he deserved.
For Vol fans, the annual Florida game has been an anxiety-ridden affair for the past several years.
Coach Dooley has taken the Anti-Kiffin approach to this week’s game by heaping praise (rightfully) on the Gators squad, thereby adding to our collective anxiety. Here are some quotes from Monday’s press conference.
Ben and Luther took their Monday lunch like most Mondays, at the Cracker Barrel where the Cosby Highway meets I-40, just a couple of miles south of downtown Newport. The topic of conversation was pretty much what it always is, on Monday or any other day – Tennessee Vols football.
After this season’s 31-7 pounding at the hands of in-state wretch Florida State, Florida head coach Urban Meyer had this to say:
“I can assure you we are going to rebuild this thing and build it up the right way and do it right. Obviously we are down a little bit. I didn’t believe we’d be that far down, but we are. How do you build a program up? You build it up with tough players, tough coaches and you have got to play better.”
And, apparently, you build it up with a new head coach.
This weekend the Tennessee Vols travel to Columbia, South Carolina for a meeting with the Gamecocks of the University of South Carolina. The current head coach of USC has many nicknames — the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Superior, Coach Visor — but one that might appropriately describe Tennessee’s relationship with him is, “Prince of Darkness.” So, with the upcoming game, a few comments and reflections about the POD.