Well…it’s a ranking! Of polls and people!
Courtesy of SB Nation’s Jason Kirk, Tennessee fans may have an early idea of where they’ll be ranked heading into September. In an average of 12 polls, the Vols ranked 22nd, behind Kansas State and in front of West Virginia. Tennessee occupies a ranking of some sort in eight of the 12 polls, coming in as high as 16th in the Sports Illustrated poll.
There’s still an entire offseason to play out, but this should give fans an idea of what most think of 2017 Tennessee. It’s not super positive, but I’ve expressed my shock to several friends that Tennessee is considered rank-worthy. Tennessee will only lose nine of 22 starters from 2016 opening night, but six of those are either likely or potential NFL Draft picks. It’ll be on Butch Jones to make this finally work.
Most notably, writers seem to expect a fairly even three-way race for the East. Georgia and Florida come in at 14th and 17th. No other East team received a vote, as one would expect. We’ll see how this works out for the Vols. There’s seven months until rankings really start coming out, and any number of staff changes, controversies, or surprising departures can happen between then and now.
It’s also worth noting that Tennessee and Florida had similarly wide splits in terms of expert thought. Both Florida and Tennessee were ranked as highly as 16th and were unranked in at least one poll. Perhaps writers see them as relatively equal teams. Georgia finished anywhere between 13th and 17th – remarkably consistent. I’m willing to bet that rises very slightly after UGA’s outstanding recruiting class (currently 3rd on 247) is factored in.
Based on these rankings, Tennessee is likely to play four preseason Top 25 teams next year. That will likely include Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida.