Tennessee Defies Analytics For Strong Power Rankings Spot

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    Matrix Analytical cofounder Adam McClintock put together a fascinating power rankings list on Tuesday morning. The list doesn’t have any opinionated input and instead focuses on analytics. According to McClintock, the power rankings are “derived from a model which utilizes full Coach Staff efficiency metrics, roster talent, & returning production among other metrics.”

    In addition, McClintock’s list includes the Top 40 teams from around college football and not just a specific conference.

    Despite referencing two low statistics for Tennessee, McClintock’s rankings do have Tennessee in a favorable position. The Vols come in at No. 15 in the analytical power rankings at the end of spring camp. Tennessee’s overall power ranking rating sits at 68.757.

    “If UT is to add to the momentum started [last year], they’ll have to retool on [offense] quickly,” McClintock said in a tweet explaining the spot. “[Offensive retention productivity] is 30.66% (101st) & total team Ret Prod is 48.55% (74th). Even w/ those numbers things look promising in Knoxville long term.”

    So why do things still look promising in Knoxville despite poor retention productivity numbers? It’s because of the success of year one. Head coach Josh Heupel and his staff were able to transform Tennessee into a dangerous team in their first year, using the pieces left from the Pruitt administration and a few players from the transfer portal.

    In his first year, Heupel took Tennessee’s scoring offense from 108th to 7th and took Tennessee’s total offense from 102nd to 9th. In addition, Tennessee had their best all-time finishes in passing efficiency, first-down offense, touchdowns, and points.

    All in all, Heupel showed his ability to adapt to his surroundings, use the pieces he had in front of him, and still create one of the best offensive teams in the country. Even with question marks and replacements to make on the offensive side of the ball, the belief is that Tennessee is going to be reloading more than rebuilding.

    The three biggest pieces that Tennessee is going to have to replace will be running back Tiyon Evans and wide receivers Velus Jones Jr and JaVonta Payton. Those three individuals combined for 1,832 yards and 20 touchdowns last year and were dynamic pieces to Tennessee’s success. But the Vols do have players ready to step up and fill in. The Vols’ running back room is taking daily strides with both Jaylen Wright and Len’Neth Whitehead growing and evolving. Not to mention, Tennessee boasts a number of talented young players including freshman running back Justin Williams-Thomas and freshman receivers Kaleb Webb and Squirrel White. While the brand-new players may not contribute as much in directly replacing Tennessee’s former players, the future is still set up for success.

    Despite a Top 15 ranking, though, Tennessee comes in as the 7th-ranked team from the SEC.

    According to McClintock’s analytical power rankings, Alabama comes in at No. 2, Georgia at No. 3, Texas A&M at No. 5, Ole Miss at No. 12, LSU at No. 13, and Florida at No. 14. Tennessee then rounds out four straight SEC spots at No. 15.

    The first three are hard to argue against with Ole Miss coming very close to that conversation as well. However, LSU and Florida, two programs that are introducing brand new coaching staffs, coming in above Tennessee are fascinating.

    While the rankings do put the teams into order, the rating that they are given is more indicative of how close each team is to the one before and after. Here’s how McClintock’s SEC teams shaped out in the rankings and ratings:

    1. (No. 2 overall) Alabama – 85.616
    2. (No. 3 overall) Georgia – 80.394
    3. (No. 5 overall) Texas A&M – 76.313
    4. (No. 12 overall) Ole Miss – 69.830
    5. (No. 13 overall) LSU – 69.215
    6. (No. 14 overall) Florida – 68.918
    7. (No. 15 overall) Tennessee – 68.757
    8. (No. 29 overall) Arkansas – 64.493
    9. (No. 40 overall) Kentucky – 61.726

    Adam McClintock’s full spring college football analytical power rankings can be found here.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.