Tennessee-Ohio By The Numbers
It may be hard to believe, but with the Tennessee Volunteers win over the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday, the season is 1/4 of the way over. While the team may not be as pleasing to the eye as some fans would like, the fact remains that the Vols are undefeated. As Team 120 prepares to begin SEC play, lets take a look at their 3rd out-of-conference game of the year, by the numbers.
With the victory of Ohio the Vols record on the season moves to 3–0. Its been 12 years (2004) since UT started a season 3–0. That year, the Vols would lose their 4th game to Auburn, yet finish out the season 10–3. The season included 1 more regular season loss (Notre Dame), and another loss to Auburn in the SEC championship. Tennessee would end the year with a 38–7 blow out win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Heading into the game with the Bobcats the Vols were riding an 8 game win streak, their longest since a 14 game win streak in the 1998–1999 season. Tennessee stretched that streak to 9 games, which is also currently the 3rd longest win streak in the country. Only Alabama (15) and San Diego State (13) have more consecutive wins.
Saturday’s win marked the Volunteers 25th straight win over a non-ranked non-conference opponent. The last loss to such a team was a 19–15 loss to UCLA in Knoxville in 2009. Ironically, the 25-game streak would begin 2 weeks later against the Ohio Bobcats. These two matchups are the only meetings between UT and Ohio, however, the Vols are 7–0 vs the MAC conference as a whole.
The Vols may have exited their game against Ohio ranked 14th in the AP poll, but the Vols are still ranked 101st in FBS offensive efficiency. On the first drive of the game, it seemed that they may have broken out of their offensive slump. They scored quickly, marching down the field in just 3 plays and 38 seconds. However, after the first drive, Tennessee’s offense seemed to shrink back into what fans had grown accustomed to this season. The Vols have managed 351 yards per game on the year, just ahead of SEC teams, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and LSU. Much of this can be attributed to UT’s 101st ranked passing offense, earning just 162 yards per game, while the rushing attack comes in at 56th and 189 yards per game.
With Josh Smith, the Vols top returning receiver from 2015,banged up, quarterback Josh Dobbs would have to find a new favorite target. That new target, so far at least, has been #3 Josh Malone. Saturday, the wide out hauled in 5 catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. What looks to be the start of a breakout season may not be too surprising to some. The once highly touted recruit has hauled in at least one touchdown per game so far this year. He’s already eclipsed half of his yardage total from a year ago, and he has doubled his touchdown production from last season.
On Saturday, Vol quarterback Josh Dobbs jumped to 7th on the Tennessee career passing yards list. He hopped Tee Martin, who finished his career with 4,592 yards. Up next on the list is Jeff Francis (1986–1988), who ended with 5,867 career yards.
Despite some sloppy play, UT is 3–0 heading into the weekend that all Vol fans have been looking forward to since the final whistle blew in the Outback Bowl in January. It’s time for the Vols to begin SEC play, and they’ll do so against their old rivals, the Florida Gators. Its been 12 years since James Wilhoit’s 50 yard kick sailed through the uprights in Neyland stadium to beat the Gators, and Vol fans are hoping that this is finally the year that they start a streak of their own.