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Analytics Have Vols Finishing with 10 Wins in Regular Season

Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

Analytics are a funny thing. If the numbers prove a point, people love them. If they fail to predict something correctly or don’t back up a claim, people hate them. But, regardless of how you feel about them, they’re still interesting to look at and take note of.

And according to certain analytics for the 2017 Vols, this season could go better than many expect for Tennessee.

According to an analytical model constructed by Adam McClintock, a contributor to the CFB Matrix website, the Vols are projected to finish the regular season with a 10-2 record.

Before continuing, however, we need to clear up some possible confusion when it comes to some of the terms used in the analysis. Here is what all the abbreviations and terms stand for in McClintock’s chart:

Now that you have a reference for the terms, here’s what McClintock’s analytics say about the Vols’ 2017 season:

As you can see from the final tally, the Vols are projected to go 10-2 in the regular season according to his analytics.

A breakdown of the numbers reveal how the analytics reached that conclusion. According to his calculations, the Vols have the No. 58 strength of schedule in the country and have a roster talent discrepancy of 36.33. That means on average heading into the 2017 season, the Vols’ talent on the roster is a little over 36 spots higher (out of 128 possible FBS teams) than their opponents as a whole.

Butch Jones has a Head Coach Rating of 2.443 (the best possible is a +12 while the worst possible is a -12) and improved his rating from last year by 0.176. Jones received a grade of B+ as a head coach in his career, and his production rating puts him at No. 26 in the country.

Offensive coordinator Larry Scott doesn’t have a coordinator score because he’s never been an offensive coordinator before, but Bob Shoop has a rating of 3.434, and that is down 0.153 from last year. Shoop earned a A+ grade as a coordinator in his career and is ranked No. 15 in the country.

The Vols’ overall roster talent based on recruiting rankings is the 8th-most talented roster in the nation. That’s an increase of five spots from last season according to the analytics.

McClintocks’ analytics have the Vols playing in two “toss-up” games and going 1-1 in the contests. Those two games are Florida (loss) and Georgia Tech (win). The only other game the analytics have Tennessee dropping in the regular season in 2017 is against Alabama.

When I reached out to McClintock to ask about the projections for Tennessee, this is what he had to say:

My model does have Tennessee going 10-2. The roster talent is there, and the SEC East is still historically down. The Vols DC is a good one; the only volatility comes in the OC hire. There’s not a lot of information or data points available for him, so he introduces a little instability in the model. My model takes into account returning production/experience, coaching staff, roster talent, and program trajectory. It attempts to simplify the game into these categories and then weight them against all other programs in the country.

But according to McClintock’s analytics, a 10-2 season wouldn’t be enough for the Vols to win the SEC East title for the first time since 2007.

As you can see above, the analytics state that Florida is projected to go 11-1 in the regular season this year. The only game McClintock’s model sees the Gators losing is against Florida State in the regular season finale. The Gators are 4-1 in toss-up games according to his analytics, as they are projected to win close contests against Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, and Texas A&M.

But what do the numbers say about Georgia, the team picked to win the East at SEC Media Days? Nothing too flattering, that’s for sure.

McClintock’s analytics have Georgia going a disappointing 7-5 in 2017, losing games to Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech.

What did McClintock have to say about those projections and the East in general?

Georgia probably has the most talented roster in the East; but that coaching staff struggles. Florida has to overcome the loss of a great DC, and the D has been what’s carried the Gators as of late. It’ll be an interesting season in the East. No team is without flaws.

McClintock added that his model correctly picks a winner game-by-game 76 percent of the time on average. And that average has been obtained over a 10-year period.

A 10-2 season would be the most wins for any Vol team since 2007. But if McClintock’s projections are correct, the Vols’ SEC East title drought would continue even with that 10-win season. And that would still disappoint plenty of Vol fans.

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