As was in the case in the coaches' poll, Tennessee slides into the final slot in the preseason AP poll released today.
|1||Ohio State (61)||1,525|
The Vols are ranked 25th in both polls, the eighth SEC team to make the Top 25. It's the first time Tennessee has been ranked at all since 2012, when the Vols missed the preseason poll but moved into the Top 25 for one week, #23 on September 9 before falling to Florida. That was the last time Tennessee had been ranked since the preseason poll in 2008, when the Vols came in at #18 before getting bounced out by UCLA in the season opener. So if the Vols manage to hang in another week, it'll be Tennessee's first multi-week appearance since 2007.
Tennessee's schedule is always a popular topic when the preseason poll is released. This year the Vols have five contests against ranked teams coming in: #3 Alabama, #9 Georgia, #18 Arkansas, #19 Oklahoma, and #24 Missouri. However, this is relatively easier compared to what the Vols have seen in the last few years. For the last ten years now Tennessee's schedule has included at least four Top 25 opponents. But this is definitely the least top-heavy schedule of the decade, at least coming into the year. Here's a look at the average preseason ranking of Vol opponents in the last ten years, with the preseason Top 10 foes listed.
- 2015: Five preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 14.6 (#3 Alabama, #9 Georgia)
- 2014: Six preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 11.5 (#2 Alabama, #4 Oklahoma, #9 South Carolina)
- 2013: Five preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 5.0 (#1 Alabama, #3 Oregon, #5 Georgia, #6 South Carolina, #10 Florida, Butch are you sure you want this job?)
- 2012: Four preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 10.0 (#2 Alabama, #6 Georgia, #9 South Carolina)
- 2011: Six preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 12.3 (#2 Alabama, #4 LSU)
- 2010: Five preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 12.0 (#1 Alabama, #4 Florida)
- 2009: Four preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 6.75 (#1 Florida, #5 Alabama, #8 Ole Miss)
- 2008: Four preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 10.0 (#1 Georgia, #5 Florida, #10 Auburn)
- 2007: Four preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 13.0 (#6 Florida)
- 2006: Four preseason ranked opponents, avg rank 9.75 (#7 Florida, #8 LSU, #9 California)
Obviously these are just preseason numbers, and some of these schedules ended up being better (or worse) than others. But coming in, this is the first time the Vols have not seen Florida, Alabama, or Georgia ranked in the top two since 2007, and likewise the first time UT hasn't been slated to face two teams ranked in the top six since then.
The Vols are better and the path is a little easier at the top, but there are still seven teams between Tennessee and the top of the SEC. The journey begins in 13 days.