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Looking only at Tennessee’s total passing yards last year inflates the perception of our passing offense. To be sure, there was a lot of talent and opposing teams respected Tennessee’s passing attack. Considering only SEC games, yards per play, and the affect of turnovers presents a much different picture, though.
The Tennessee average passing yards per SEC game was 255; OOC was 437. The Tennessee average rushing yards per SEC game was 172; OOC was 137. Comparisons including OOC games are skewed due to the effect of varying level of competition in general and money games specifically.
I made a study of rushing, passing and the affect of turnovers within the SEC for in-conference games last year. Turnovers have a significant impact on converting yards gained into points. On average, a turnover costs an SEC team the equivalent of about 80 yards or a little less than 6 points. A team that gets 475 yards of offense but has 2 turnovers is roughly equivalent to an offense that gets 315 yards with no turnovers.
In its 8 SEC games, Tennessee had a total of 15 turnovers due to interception, sack, or receiver fumble. For yards passing in SEC games only, Tennessee ranked 6th at 255 yards passing per game but 10th at 104 after adjusting for turnovers. Tennessee ranked 8th at 7.3 yards passing per attempt but 11th at 3.0 after adjusting for turnovers. Despite the total yards, this wasn’t one of the very best pass offenses in Tennessee history.
In contrast, in its 8 SEC games, Tennessee had only 1 fumble by a rusher. For yards rushing in SEC games only, Tennessee ranked 4th at 172 yards rushing per game and 2nd (behind A&M) at 162 yards per game after adjusting for turnovers. Tennessee ranked 3rd at 5.1 rushing yards per play and 1st at 4.8 after adjusting for turnovers.
FWIW, Tennessee’s offense was 4th in SEC yards per game (427) / yards per play (6.2), 5th after penalizing for turnovers (266, 3.9).
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