Tennessee football head coach Josh Heupel. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.
ESPN released their final College Football power rankings and SP+ rankings on Wednesday morning.
To give some sort of starting point for comparison, Tennessee finished at the No. 6 position in the final AP Top 25 rankings that were released on Tuesday morning. The Vols sit behind Georgia, TCU, Michigan, Ohio State, and Alabama in the poll.
ESPN’s final power rankings of the season are identical to the AP rankings in relation to the Tennessee Volunteers. Once again, Josh Heupel’s squad comes in at No. 6 in ESPN’s rankings behind the same five teams in the same order.
“It might be premature to say that Tennessee is all the way back, but the Vols made their biggest jump in two decades,” ESPN’s Chris Low wrote. “They won 11 games for the first time since 2001, including a 31-14 win over Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl to cap the season. Josh Heupel’s offense was once again electric (leading the country with an average of 46.1 points per game), and quarterback Hendon Hooker had a sensational senior season until he tore an ACL in the 63-38 loss at South Carolina. The blowout loss to the Gamecocks was inexplicable and cost the Vols a spot in the College Football Playoff.”
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While the position below Alabama is controversial, it is fairly consistent across the board. Tennessee was ranked one spot below Alabama in the final regular-season AP rankings and one spot below the Tide in the final College Football Playoffs rankings in early December.
Tennessee defeated Alabama by a score of 52-49 in one of college football’s most memorable games of the year.
The Vols do come in as a Top 5 team in the SP+ rankings though. What are the SP+ rankings? It is “a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency,” according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly.
“SP+ is indeed intended to be predictive and forward-facing,” Connelly wrote. “It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football.”
Tennessee comes in at the No. 5 spot with an overall rating of 28.0. The Vols boast the second-highest offensive rating (47.3) and the 30th-ranked defensive rating (19.6). Tennessee also was given a 0.2 special teams rating, good for the 56th ranking in the nation.
The Top 10 of the SP+ Rankings with overall ratings are as follows:
Ohio State (30.7)
Penn State (23.6)
Kansas State (19.9)