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How Much Is Tennessee's Offense Improving?

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I hate that I-A teams play I-AA teams. The stats accumulated in those games don't make any sense for comparative purposes, and yet the NCAA doesn't subtract them from the I-A teams' totals. That gets on my nerves. When I unveil my stat-based voting system for the BlogPoll in another week or two, it will have all stats against I-AA teams eliminated.

I mention that because I noticed a great piece over at Rocky Top Talk looking at how much the Tennessee offense has improved over 2008's disaster. Unfortunately, they left the results against Western Kentucky in the figures. Now yes, technically WKU is a full I-A member, but it might as well be a I-AA team with the way they play. The Hilltoppers clock in at 151 in Jeff Sagarin's rankingsand are not good at all.

So, I decided to do a quick check of the same numbers to see how Tennessee is improving without the Western Kentucky outlier game included.

Category 2008 2009 2009 no WKU Adjustment Change over '08
Rushing Offense 122.92 188 140 -48 17.08
Passing Offense 145.83 188.8 166.75 -22.05 20.92
Total Offense 268.75 376.8 306.75 -70.05 38
Scoring Offense 17.33 29.4 21 -8.4 3.67
Passing Efficiency 99.79 115.5 96.91 -18.59 -2.88
Best Rusher 51.82 115 103.75 -11.25 51.93
Best Passer 108.3 114.2 96.91 -17.29 -11.39

The 2008 numbers are for the whole season, so as RTT warned, they include a more complete SEC slate than 2009 nascent numbers do. The 2009 column shows the current team stats, the next column should be obvious, the "Adjustment" shows what happens to the 2009 numbers when WKU is taken out, and the "Change over '08" column shows the difference between 2009 without WKU and 2008.

Even without the game against the Hilltoppers included, Tennessee's offensive stats are better than 2008. Total offense is up around 40 yards, scoring has risen by about a field goal, and 2009's best rusher Montario Hardesty is half a field per game better than last year's best rusher, Arian Foster.

The one area of decline is in passing. Passing efficiency overall has decreased a bit, and 2009's best (and basically only) passer Jonathan Crompton trails 2008's best passer, Nick Stephens. Not that Stephens was exactly setting the world on fire with his 108.3 mark, but Crompton's 96.9 is basically indistinguishable from his 98.1 of last season.

The overall verdict is essentially what we already knew: Tennessee's run game is better this year, but the passing game with Crompton is once again abysmal. That's not terribly surprising given that offensive transitions take time and aren't helped by a bad quarterback.