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Tennessee Must Run Joshua Dobbs to Win

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He's not going to throw the Vols to victories.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

If it wasn't clear before now, Joshua Dobbs is not a great passer. Through three games, two of them against non-Power 5 competition, Dobbs has completed 60% of his passes for 6.5 yards per attempt. Neither of those figures is particularly awe-inspiring, and they're right in line with what he did a year ago. His completion percentage was slightly lower at 59.6% in 2015, while his YPA rate was slightly higher at 6.7.

The Volunteer offense struggled for long stretches against App State and Ohio in particular, and it was fairly clear that the coaches didn't want him running much in those games. It makes sense; there is no point in the quarterback taking a bunch of hits in non-conference guarantee games. However, it also exposed the fact that UT's offense is pretty poor without him running it much.

To the point, I looked at Tennessee's drives and noted whether Dobbs carried the ball at least twice or not. He just had to have two carries. They didn't have to be good runs, or even called runs, as I counted scrambles in as run plays. He just had to have two runs, not counting sacks as runs. I also tossed out garbage time drives, run-out-the-clock drives at the ends of halves, and a couple of one-play drives where Dobbs couldn't possibly have carried it twice because they were one-play drives.

Here was the result:

Dobbs 2 Carries? Drives TD FGA Punts/TOs Points per Drive
Yes 5 4 0 1 5.6
No 29 5 5 19 1.5

Tennessee is scoring touchdowns 80% of the time in 2016 when Dobbs carries twice on a drive. These aren't gimme touchdown drives either, as all of them were more than 50 yards long.

In fact, two of the drives with field goal attempts when Dobbs didn't carry the ball twice came when the Vols got the ball inside the Virginia Tech 30-yard line. They gained a total of one yard on those two drives before kicking, by the way. In addition, one of the touchdown drives in the "No" category ended with Dobbs rushing for a 27-yard touchdown.

That's just the outcomes, though. What about simple yards per play?

Dobbs 2 Carries? Plays Yards Yards per Play
Yes 38 269 7.1
No 147 707 4.8

Dobbs being enough of a threat to run that he actually does run at least twice opens up the offense enough that it makes for a 2.3 yards per play difference. I know the Tennessee coaches know that Dobbs running the ball makes a difference. Eight of Dobbs's nine pre-garbage time carries against Ohio came in the second half. They tried not having him run the ball to keep the hits off for a couple of quarters, but it only resulted in a 14-12 halftime lead. Needing to avoid a horrendous upset, they had Dobbs run a lot more after the break. It worked.

Florida hasn't exactly played a murderer's row yet, but its passing defense appears to be one of the best in the country. Combine that with the awfully shaky play from the Tennessee offensive line—UT is tied for 84th nationally with seven sacks allowed—and it doesn't look likely that Dobbs will have much success throwing the ball on Saturday.

If there ever was a time to get Dobbs moving on the ground, this weekend is it. If we still see any reluctance from the Volunteer offensive staff to have him carry the ball, the Gators' win streak will certainly extend to 12.