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Looking at Tennessee’s schedule by win shares

Tennessee football’s full schedule was just announced by the SEC on Friday afternoon. Let’s just say…it was a doozy.

The Volunteers have the wonderful opportunity to play a 10-game schedule, with six games coming against preseason top-15 teams. Every SEC team was waiting to see which two opponents would be added to their schedules, since the decision to go to a conference-only schedule left holes in everyone’s plans. Tennessee received arguably the second hardest draw, with an away game at Auburn and a home game against Texas A&M added to an already difficult schedule that had Alabama, Georgia, and Florida baked in.

Head coach Jeremy Pruitt was excited to start back, at least:

Prior to the schedule unveiling, most had Tennessee in the 8-4 or 9-3 range. An adjustment is clearly needed. Consensus appears to be that Tennessee’s overall schedule got a little bit harder on Friday. So what should the expectations for this year be adjusted to? Instead of a straight record prediction, we went the fun route and did something a bit more creative: Win Shares.

This idea has been around a few years and has been mentioned on some sports podcasts. Essentially, instead of giving a straight win/loss prediction, you try and quantify the team’s chances in a game. So you’re not just choosing 100% win or 100% loss—you’re putting a more accurate gauge on how each opponent lines up against yours. If you think Tennessee will be a favorite against Kentucky, but not an overwhelming one, you might put the win probability at 65%, which translates to .65 win shares.

The idea is that win shares give you a more accurate total of your final wins. Think of it this way: If you thought Tennessee had a 60% win probability in every single game on the schedule, you still might not think they go undefeated. Sports are weird, and the non-favorite can still win.

Here’s how I figure the Tennessee schedule plays out. I split the games into the Home and Away categories, but truthfully I am not taking into account any home field advantage factors, since the idea of fans being in the seats is in jeopardy.

The first iteration was my gut instinct. I don’t like weird looking numbers, so everything ends in either a zero or a five. The numbers are Tennessee’s probability of winning the game.

Home

Alabama – 20% (.20)

Florida – 40% (.40)

Kentucky – 70% (.70)

Missouri – 75% (.75)

Texas A&M – 45% (.45)

Total Home Game Win Shares: 2.5

Away

Georgia – 35% (.35)

Vanderbilt – 90% (.90)

South Carolina – 70% (.70)

Arkansas – 85% (.85)

Auburn – 50% (.50)

Total Away Game Win Shares: 3.3

Total Win Shares: 5.8

If you really want to break it down, there’s even a site that has translated game spreads into percent chance of winning. This one involves some more guessing about what the spreads will look like, because we would need those in order to give the most accurate win shares. It can still provide some clarity if we “eyeball” it.

Using that method, here’s how I would break it down.

Home

Alabama (-14) translates to .15

Florida (-5) translates to .36

Kentucky (10) translates to .77

Missouri (12) translates to .82

Texas A&M (-2) translates to .47

Total Home Game Win Shares: 2.57

Away

Georgia (-12) translates to .18

Vanderbilt (18) translates to .95

South Carolina (8) translates to .74

Arkansas (11) translates to .80

Auburn (PUSH) translates to .50

Total Away Game Win Shares: 3.17

Total Win Shares: 5.74

You can do this at home with a pen and piece of paper as well. It’s fun to see if your straight win/loss predictions differ at all from your win shares, and where you might have a skewed idea of who the favorite will be.

Both of these methods translated to over 5 wins, and both were closer to 6 wins. This is actually pretty in line with what I thought before doing the exercise. I think Tennessee will be clear underdogs in three games, a slight underdog in one, a coin toss in one, and clear favorites in the rest. The obvious downside is that a 6-4 season can easily turn into a 5-5 year that leaves many wondering if any progress was made at all.

It’s pretty easy to set the expectations with the updated predictions! 5-5 is a mediocre year that won’t inspire confidence, but also won’t bottom out. 6-4 is meeting expectations and indicating a slow progress is being made. 7-3 is cause for celebration and a sign that the program has taken another step towards national relevance. Anything above that? Start planning your trips to Atlanta for 2021/2022.

What do you think? Share some of your predicted win shares in the comment section below!

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