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Where Would You Rank Tennessee?

A strange opening Saturday might have you feeling better about Thursday.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s an exercise I bet you or someone you love has engaged in during the last 24 hours:

  • Tennessee was a 20-point favorite over an 11-2 team last year. They won 20-13 in overtime, failing to cover by 13.
  • Florida was a 37-point favorite over a 3-9 team last year. They won 24-7, failing to cover by 20.
  • Arkansas was a 26-point favorite over a 9-4 team last year. They won 21-20, failing to cover by 25.
  • Kentucky was a 7-point favorite over a 9-5 team last year. They lost 44-35.
  • Mississippi State was a 28-point favorite over a 5-7 team last year. They lost 21-20.

So while it may have felt for much of Thursday and Friday like the Vols might not even be ranked come Tuesday morning, much of not just the SEC but Tennessee’s contemporaries in the poll had it about as bad or worse this weekend. #12 Michigan State struggled to beat FCS Furman 28-13, and #13 TCU struggled to beat FCS South Dakota State 59-41.

Sure, the Vols might slip in the polls. But how far?

I don’t have a vote, but if I did I would definitely rank these teams above Tennessee:

  • Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, and Stanford were all ranked ahead of the Vols and won.
  • The winner of #4 Florida State & #11 Ole Miss Monday night.
  • #10 Notre Dame if they beat Texas tonight.
  • #15 Houston after beating #3 Oklahoma.

That’s eight. The Vols are currently nine.

I’d also definitely consider #18 Georgia and unranked Wisconsin and Texas A&M. In Week One the polls are much more fluid, as they should be, and some voters won’t care that the Badgers and Aggies would be gaining something like 15-20 spots; they had two of the best wins in this early season. But some voters will value their preseason picks more and would be unlikely to jump those two teams that high.

But even if everyone did, that would still put the Vols around #12. I’m not sure that we’ll really see much more panic than that, and if we do it would be to give teams like Washington a nod for beating Rutgers. The Vols certainly weren’t enjoyable to watch and played at a date and time that gave them the eyes of the nation, which turned out to be for worse than for better. But I’m not buying the Vols being ranked below two teams who struggled with FCS foes when Tennessee struggled with one that won 11 in FBS.

Hey, it’s the polls. There’s going to be disagreement and arguments about what’s logical and illogical, etc. We haven’t gotten to be either in nine years. Enjoy the conversation.

But I don’t think the sky is going to fall quite as far as we thought late Thursday night.