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Tennessee debuts at 15th (!) in ESPN’s 2019 Football Power Index

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A huge leap.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another metric is decently high on the Tennessee Volunteers for the 2019 football season.

ESPN released their first version of their ‘Football Power Index’ (FPI) today, placing Tennessee as the 15th best team in the country. This coming just a couple of months after the Vols finished 5-7.

Tennessee’s presence in the top 15 was so surprising, ESPN felt the need to explain themselves.

And if we look at perhaps the most surprising inclusion -- Tennessee -- it’s easy to see why the Volunteers have flown up our board. Tennessee is one of just three FBS schools to return 10 starters on offense (and it brings back 17 overall), including quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who posted a solid QBR of 67.4 last season. Even though Tennessee struggled on offense overall last season, teams that bring back that much talent tend to undergo significant improvement from one year to the next. The Vols also rank highly in recruiting over the past four years.

For what it’s worth, Tennessee finished 2018 ranked 65th by this same metric.

The Vols ranked 18th offensively and 19th defensively — two numbers that seem quite optimistic considering what we saw last year.

ESPN’s projections aren’t too far off of what the S&P+ number spit out this week, which placed Tennessee as the 21st best team in the country. The Vols join Alabama (2), Georgia (3), LSU (4), Florida (8), Auburn (9), Texas A&M (11), Mississippi State (16), South Carolina (19) and Missouri (20) inside the top 20 of the FPI.