A 62 point output and a 38 point win in SEC play will do wonders for a team’s standing in the metrics world. ESPN’s FPI took notice of Tennessee’s performance last weekend at Missouri, jolting the Volunteers all the way up to No. 26 in the country.
Josh Heupel has enjoyed a more consistent offense since being forced to turn to Hendon Hooker at quarterback. Joe Milton’s injury opened that door, and Hooker doesn’t appear to be interested in giving the gig back. Heupel named Hooker Tennessee’s starter officially on Monday, listing him atop the depth chart for the first time.
Hooker’s efficiency is a big reason why Tennessee has jumped up in the FPI rankings. His 10-1 TD-INT ratio is impressive, and what he brings to the rushing attack can’t be ignored either. He helped spark a Tennessee rushing attack that ran wild against Missouri, piling up well over 400 yards on the ground.
Tennessee was 54th entering the week, while Missouri was ranked 64th. The Vols now hold the 32nd ranked offense in the country, according to FPI. The defense ranks 29th in efficiency per the update FPI numbers — a ranking that would have shocked anyone if you had told them just a few weeks ago. Josh Heupel’s progress with the offense is easy to see, but Tim Banks has done outstanding work with the defense as well.
One notable mention here — Tennessee holds the second toughest remaining schedule, so these numbers might be a touch inflated from where they’ll end. Games against Alabama and Georgia will certainly hurt, while Ole Miss and Kentucky also present big challenges. That’s why taking care of business against South Carolina (65th in FPI) this weekend is so important. Clint will go deeper on that during Friday’s post.
So, we’re five games in with Josh Heupel and Tennessee is 3-2, pretty much right in line where most thought they would be. Losing the Pittsburgh game hurts more by the day, but those are just some moments that you’re going to get in year one with a thin roster.
At this point, it’s tough to find too many complaints. The missed chances against Pitt and Florida still stand out, but the bounceback moment against Missouri provides us with some confidence moving forward.