LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 26: Bray's 85.2 QB rating against the Wildcats was a big reason UT's streak came to an end. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I recently dominated the family reunion football game, tossing 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception while picking off a pair of passes and falling on a fumble. In family reunion football, I am that rare talent that can play effectively on both sides of the ball (even while continually hitting the flask between plays). I was baited into that one interception by a 10-year-old, who jumped my out-route intended for his cousin. When you note that only 4 of the 12 or so players-sometimes you have to play a man down for a bit when a kid wanders off for another chicken leg-were above the age of 14, my statistical performance may look a tad less impressive.
When you look at Tyler Bray's statistical performance from a year ago-17 TDs to 6 INTs and a 144.8 QB rating-he looks really impressive, and we know that, like me, he is deadly accurate even while buzzed. But a closer examination of Bray's workload from his injury-abbreviated 2011 season reveals that he has built his reputation largely by feasting on the poor and downtrodden secondaries of college football's lightweights, with maybe one exception. In Bray's 7 games under center last year, he had 3 QB rating-inflating performances, two of which came against far inferior programs. Bray posted video game numbers against FCS Montana (214.6 QB rating) and Buffalo (209.8). While the Grizz are a solid FCS program, their secondary simply cannot match the athleticism and major college experience of what Bray will face against N. C. State. Buffalo, while sort of kind of an FBS school, ranked 101st in opponents' QB rating last year while managing just two wins over FBS opponents. Bray's results against these two programs are essentially meaningless.
The one impressive performance on Bray's résumé came in the Vols' win over Cincinnati; the Bearcats ranked a respectable 44th against the pass, allowing QBs a 124.27 rating for the season, but Bray torched the kitties for a 198.1 rating. Bray was okay against Georgia, sporting a 118.4 rating for the game against a defense that averaged a 98.74 rating against for the season, good for 4th best in the nation. But Bray missed the top 3 defenses against the pass, all of which are also from the apparently QB-starved SEC (LSU, South Carolina, and Alabama), and he performed worse than the average QB fared against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. He really, really sucked against the Wildcats (85.2), helping see to it that the Vols' 26-game winning streak against their border rival fell. Overall, against FBS opponents he was just as likely to post a QB rating lower than what the opponent normally allowed than to exceed it, and when he did excel it was typically against far inferior competition. Bray's overall rating (144.8) would have been 30th best in FBS had he played enough to qualify, but his pedestrian 126.03 rating against BCS opponents would have ranked 58th.
For the record, the Pack were 6-0 last year against FBS opponents when the opposing QB failed to post a QB rating of at least 137.9, so Bray will likely have to do something he really did not do last year-put up big numbers against a stingy pass defense-in order to lead UT to victory. The Pack allowed an average QB rating against of 118.02 for the season, ranking 31st in FBS. Florida and Kentucky (28th and 29th, respectively) were the most comparable pass defenses Bray faced. He did not play well; Tennessee lost.
Like Bray, N. C. State's Mike Glennon picked on inferior opponents, shredding the Fighting Jerry Falwells of Liberty with a 266.1 rating, but Glennon was also better against BCS foes; filtering stats for games only against BCS competition, Glennon would have been 15 spots ahead of Bray in the national rankings (had Bray posted enough attempts to qualify). Also, whereas Bray was just as likely to post below average numbers as he was to exceed the average QB rating against an opponent, Glennon usually outperformed the average. In 7 of 11 games against FBS opponents, Glennon's QB rating outpaced the average the opponent allowed for the season; against Maryland, Glennon was within a point of what the Terps normally allowed. Only 3 times did Glennon significantly underperform compared to what a team normally allows.
Mike Glennon is an above average QB, and with better protection from his offensive line and a bit of a complimentary running game, he may well prove to be elite. Tyler Bray, both on and off the field, still has a lot to prove.