Is this Vols’ Offense Worse than the 2005 and 2008 Offenses?

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    Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

    Tennessee’s offense has been nothing short of disappointing through the 2017 season. After a good start in the first couple games of the season, the offense has hit a brick wall over the last month.

    Over their last three games, the Vols are averaging just 238 yards of offense and a mere 8.7 points per game. Those three games have come against a winless UMass team, a top 10 Georgia team, and South Carolina.

    All in all, Tennessee’s offense has been far from potent this season. The Vols are averaging 320 yards per game on offense and are scoring just 21.7 points per game. Tennessee’s coaches elected to turn to another quarterback for Saturday’s game against South Carolina, but even that didn’t make a difference.

    The Vols’ play-calling on offense has been suspect at best since Tennessee entered SEC play this season, and the signal-caller won’t make a difference as long as the play-calling and offensive line execution remains what it is.

    But just how bad is this Tennessee offense? Is it the worst in school history at this point?

    The Vols’ 2005 and 2008 teams are known for their incompetent offenses. Both teams finished with losing records, and both teams were infamous for their inept offensive performances. So how does Tennessee’s 2017 offense compare to these two offenses?

    The 2005 team averaged 326.3 yards per game and 18.6 points per game. Those numbers are eerily similar to Tennessee’s 2017 stats so far this season. The Vols’ worst offensive stretch in 2005 went from October 8th to November 5th when Tennessee lost to No. 5 Georgia, No. 5 Alabama, South Carolina, and No. 8 Notre Dame. The Vols averaged a mere 13.3 points per game in that stretch.

    But the difference there is that Tennessee was losing and looking bad against highly-ranked opponents. The Vols this season have looked bad against one highly-ranked opponent, one winless FBS school, and a mid-tier SEC school.

    Tennessee’s offense this season isn’t doing quite as badly as the 2008 offense. At least not yet. But there are some disturbing similarities between the two.

    The Vols’ 2008 offense averaged a paltry 268.8 yards per game and 17.3 points a game. That offense’s worst stretch happened between October 25th to November 8th when the Vols lost to No. 6 Alabama, South Carolina, and Wyoming. The offense averaged 7.3 points per game and 199.7 yards of offense per game in that stretch.

    Compare that to the Vols’ last three games this season, and the parallels are eerie.

    Tennessee lost to a top 10 team, South Carolina, and a bad FBS opponent in Wyoming in 2008. While the Vols didn’t lose to their bad FBS opponent this season (UMass), they were very close to doing so. And their losses in this stretch are against a top 10 team and South Carolina.

    Just like in 2008.

    The 2008 team totaled less than 200 yards of offense twice during the season. Tennessee’s 2017 offense has already done that once (against Georgia) and was very close to doing it again against South Carolina until a 73-yard drive on the final drive of the game pushed their total to 253 yards in the game.

    Tennessee’s third down conversion rate this season is just 34.5 percent. Their third down conversion rate in 2008? That would be 34.7 percent, just two-tenths of a percent higher than this season.

    Tennessee still has their match-up with No. 1 Alabama looming this weekend. The Tide have the No. 1 scoring defense in the SEC and the No. 2 overall defense. The Vols’ offense will be lucky to score this weekend, something they’ve struggled to do against lesser defenses recently as well.

    There’s still time for the Vols to turn around their offensive woes this season. Aside from Alabama, Tennessee only faces one other SEC defense that’s ranked inside the top five of the SEC in terms of yards allowed, and that’s LSU. Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky are all in the bottom four in the conference in total defense.

    Southern Miss, however, does have a statistically solid defense. They’re currently 20th in the entire country in yards allowed per game, giving up only 313.3 yards a contest.

    The Vols’ 2017 offense isn’t the worst in recent school history, but some of the numbers they’re currently putting up are a little too close for comfort for Vol fans. And if something doesn’t change on offense soon, the 2017 offense might end up being remembered as the worst offense Tennessee has seen in the modern era.