ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) has been friendly to the Vols in the past, and continues to be heading into the 2016 season.
The latest preseason rankings have Tennessee at No. 5 nationally, and the team with the second-highest chance to win the SEC Championship (28.3%), and would be considered the favorites to win the SEC East, according to these metrics.
The FPI, which, according to ESPN, “is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule,” certainly isn’t the only way to rank teams, but it does come at it from a more scientific approach than something like the Associated Press Poll.
Tennessee was actually favored in 11 games by the FPI in 2015, so it obviously isn’t a perfect predictor. But it did give the Vols almost an 80% chance to beat Northwestern in the Outback Bowl earlier this year, so it obviously has some decent track record right there.
Here’s the entire list from ESPN.