The Tennessee Volunteers are scoring just above 42 points per game in the first three contests of the Josh Heupel era. In addition, the Vols have scored 36 points or more in each of their first three games. Tennessee only rose above the 36-point mark three times throughout the last two seasons to put that into perspective. While impressive, though, it doesn’t come close to another statistic from the Tennessee offense.
Heading into the fourth week of the college football season, Tennessee is the fastest offense in the country, running 3.02 plays per minute. That number is good enough to rank first in the country, according to Tennessee Athletics.
The next fastest team in the country is Utah State, which is running 2.95 plays per minute.
The top-ranking isn’t a recognition that Tennessee is brand-new to this season, though. After the Vols’ season opener against Bowling Green, Tennessee also had the fastest-ranked offense in the country.
Although, the number has evened out slightly after the last two games. Tennessee was at 3.37 plays per minute after one game, and they now sit at 3.02. Regardless, it is still an impressive number considering how little time Tennessee’s players have been running the system with Heupel. To be the best in the country, at anything, is a pretty significant accomplishment. And right now, Tennessee is the best team at playing with tempo when they have the ball.
The reason behind its significance is simple. The Tennessee offense wants to play fast. And they believe that the faster they play, the more the offense will be effective and efficient. While the in-play execution may not have always been there in the first three weeks, the gameplan execution is working well. Tennessee wants to play fast, and they are.
And to think, the offense hasn’t even hit the speed the players believe it can.
“Me personally, I felt like it could have been faster,” Tennessee center Jerome Carvin said about the offense’s tempo in the last few weeks. “I felt like I could’ve gotten my guys lined up faster so that the outside guys can get lined up and get ready to rock and roll. Me, as the center, I feel like I could have done a way better job of pushing tempo. Because I feel like we haven’t even gotten close to how fast we can play.”
When Cooper Mays returns to the lineup, he will move back to his traditional center position. On the week one depth chart, Mays was the starting center, with Carvin over at left guard. However, Carvin has a great deal of experience playing both positions. And he is correct; the center’s job is to set the offense’s tempo. But Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel also spoke about what the overall offense has to do to be faster.
“When we’re playing with tempo, we want to be more efficient,” Heupel said at his Monday press conference. “It can be ball mechanics. It can be the eyes, it can be an alignment assignment. All of those things can help us play quicker when we’re playing within our tempo.”
At the end of the day, though, games are not won and lost by how many plays a team can run in a minute. Yes, the Tennessee offense is the best in the country in that category. But the most significant aspect of the equation is Tennessee’s execution of said plays. That is especially true when playing a Top 15 rival on the road at night.
Tennessee will travel to Gainesville to take on Florida this Saturday night. The game, which will open the SEC slate for Tennessee, will take place at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition, ESPN will have the broadcast.