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Kentucky Football Poised To End SEC Winless Streak Against Vanderbilt

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A preview using the F/+ adjusted stats. Do they predict a 'Cayts SEC victory for the first time since 2011?

Andy Lyons

On Saturday Kentucky looks to end its long SEC winless streak in front of what should be one of the best home game environments in several years. The ticket prices have been lowered for this game. The expectations have been raised. Without a doubt, tomorrow's game is the most important one since Mark Stoops took the helm. What kind of chance does UK have to beat Vanderbilt? Let's see what the adjusted stats tell us.

Importantly, these ratings are taking into account performances from the first three weeks and preseason data, so a grain of salt is required. As the season progresses, and more data is accumulated, the numbers should gain more accuracy.

F/+ ratings combine the S&P+ rankings and the FEI rankings. This is how those ratings are described:

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams - win or lose; and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are four key components to the S&P+

If interested, here is a glossary that might be of additional use. Lastly, keep in mind that the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0% that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

The F/+ and S&P+ View

OVERALL

When UK Has the ball...

When Vandy has the ball...

Category

UK

Vandy

UK Off.

Vandy Def.

UK Def.

Vandy Off.

F/+ Rk (Overall)

73 (-4.3%)

102

(-12.2%)

 

 

 

 

F/+ Rk Change From Last Week

73 (0)

91 (-11)

 

 

 

 

S&P+ (Overall)

67 (199.2)

80 (189.2)

 

 

 

 

FEI (Overall)

81 (-0.082)

114 

(-.0194)

 

 

 

 

S&P+ Rk (Overall)

67 (199.2)

80 (189.2)

69 (98.1)

52 (104)

61 (101)

104 (85.2)

Rushing S&P+ Rk

 

 

45 (0.508)

55 (0.435)

63 (0.442)

102 (.461)

Passing S&P+ Rk

 

 

66 (0.534)

104 (0.559)

35 (0.466)

113 (0.442)

 

Oh my, how things have changed since we compared these two teams F/+ stats last November. UK is better than Vanderbilt in several phases of the game this season. There is a large discrepancy between the offenses (UK ranked 69th and Vandy ranked 104th), but Vandy does have the slight edge in defenses (UK 61st to Vandy 52nd).  If one burrows down further, though UK has a clear advantage on offense and defense in terms of Rushing S&P+ and Passing S&P+.

If the game performance bears out these adjusted stats, then UK's offense should reliably be considered to move the ball and put up points, especially in the air as UK's Passing S&P+ ranking of 66th is far better than Vandy's 113th ranked Passing S&P+ defense. UK's running game should be challenged by Vandy's rush defense as there is not a noticeable difference between the team's Rushing S&P+. Vandy has a stout front seven, and their nose tackle will give UK center Jon Toth all he can handle. UK has struggled to run the ball consistently this season, and Vandy won't make it any easier. UK's clear advantage is in the air, and UK should capitalize in that area. 

If UK is able to exploit their advantages against Vandy's secondary, the Vanderbilt offense is ill-positioned to play catch-up against the vast majority of defenses. Vandy's offensive rankings are all north of 100, while UK's are comfortably lower. UK's Passing S&P+ is 35th and the Rushing S&P+ is 63rd. Vandy is especially at a disadvantage when throwing the ball, making it all the more important that UK is successful stopping Vandy's power run game on first and second downs. All of this likely means UK's defense will be largely successful Saturday barring turnovers or poor field position. 

If Vandy does have success running the ball, their offense becomes much more potent. Tight end Steven Scheu could have a career day off play-action passes. Webb or Seymour could chew up the clock on 5 yard runs, that in turn keeps Towles & Company off the field. It would be a constricting, slow-motion way to lose.

Special teams ratings have yet to be published, so it's difficult to verify how the two teams match-up. One thing is for certain though, UK cannot kick the ball to Darrius Sims. Ever.

TL;DR

Saturday should be the day UK earns its first SEC victory in a long time. Vandy's defense is good against the run, but UK will make plays through the air. UK must limit turnovers and Vandy's special teams to prevent a close game. If it stays close, Vandy can continue its power running game, and mix in play-action passes, which will give UK problems.

UK 31: Vandy 14.