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Vols defense defying the odds

Whatever Sal Sunseri and the Vols’ defense has landed on sure does stink.

There’s no shortage of amazing things you can point out about the 2012 Vols defense. And by amazing, I mean horrendous. Yet still amazing, mind you. Because you gotta admit — the flat-out train wreck that Vol fans have witnessed on the defensive side of the ball this year? It’s been truly amazing.

But do you know what the most amazing thing about the Vols defense is?

That it’s somehow getting worse. We all know it, right? I mean, just the eye test alone tells us that the defense has become more inept as the season has progressed. Yet there’s also a possible explanation: our opponents have been getting tougher.

Or have they?

Last night, for kicks and giggles, I decided to break the season into three, three-game segments, and in so doing, I noticed something. See if you notice it, too:

Segment 1: NC State, Georgia State, Florida

Segment 2: Akron, Georgia, Mississippi State

Segment 3: Alabama, South Carolina, Troy

Did you catch it? Each segment contains two BCS schools and one lessor opponent. So, to a certain extent, these three-game segments are, indeed, comparable to each other. That doesn’t mean that our schedule hasn’t gotten more difficult — it has. But that does mean that the three, three-game segments are more alike than I initially would have thought. Similar enough, in fact, for a meaningful comparison of stats.

And when I did just that, I couldn’t believe what I found. Check it out:

Vols defense: yards allowed per game

Tennessee Vols DefenseI literally did the math three different times on the segment 3’s total yards because, to be frank, I refused to believe that the Vols defense has given up nearly 600 total yards per game. I’m working through this painful revelation with the help of a trained professional.

Stop judging me. Like you’re not all fucked up, too.

Anyway, as you can see, the defense has gotten significantly worse in every single category from segment to segment with one exception: we went from allowing 181 rushing yards per game in segment 1 to allowing 180 rushing yards per game in segment 2.

So there’s that. Moral victories, y’all. Grab ’em when you can. Especially with this defense.

But yardage allowed can sometimes be misleading, right? So let’s look at some other facets, too.

1st downs, 3rd down efficiency, turnovers forced per game

Vols defense

Again, there’s a falloff. Sure, we stayed flat on 1st downs between the first and second segments — but allowing over 21 1st downs per game is nothing to brag about. And, sure, we also stayed flat in turnovers forced between the first two segments. But, remember: we forced four against NC State, our very first game of the year, which means this, too, has been an area of decline.

And, seriously, are you kidding me with the 3rd down efficiency? This last three-game segment, the Vols defense allowed their opponent to convert on nearly half of all 3rd downs opportunities.

Not. Good.

But what about the only stat that matters? What about…

Points allowed per game

Vols defense

Eeesh. Okay, then. That’s been on the slide, too.

And that’s kinda where I am with the defense in general and our defensive coordinator (if not also our head coach) in specific. It’s one thing to have an Achilles’ heel. Yet another to have an Achilles’ heel of the magnitude of the one we’ve got.

But to have an Achilles’ heel of such a magnitude that’s somehow finding a way to get drastically worse? Not only is it unacceptable, it’s damn near impossible to do.

Think about it. It’s like topping infinity. Or following a Creed concert with Nickelback show or something.

Look, we’ve got three games left. And, as of this point, there’s not a single reason why each of our three remaining opponents won’t come into their matchup with the Vols defense with extreme confidence.

And unless they find a way to get a little bit better — I got news for you. We’re gonna drop one of those three games. And if you think the season’s been ugly so far? Just wait till that happens.

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