Opposing fanbases will often claim that the Vols are one of the most overrated football programs year in and year out. Rival fanbases will state that Vol fans claim every single season “feels just like 1998” and that Tennessee is hyped up every year only to disappoint.
Well, the stats don’t support their claims.
According to data compiled by Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports, the Vols are actually rarely overhyped when it comes to their predicted finish in the SEC East at SEC Media Days. Since the conference expanded to 14 teams in 2012, the media has been fairly accurate with their predictions for Tennessee.
Sallee took every SEC Media Day prediction since 2012 and compared them with every team’s actual finish by the end of the regular season. And through the five years of data, Sallee has concluded that the media has been “pretty close” when it comes to predicting where the Vols will finish. All in all, Tennessee was given a -2 score, meaning they finished an average of -.4 spots lower than predicted over the last five years.
“Tennessee’s second-place finish last year was a slight disappointment on paper for the preseason favorites,” Sallee wrote, “but the Vols haven’t been as volatile as one might expect. They haven’t chimed in more than one spot higher or lower than their predicted finish since the division split.”
This means the Vols have rarely been overhyped or undervalued; Tennessee has tended to finish where they’re expected to over the last five years. The Vols join Auburn (-2), Arkansas (-2), Texas A&M (+1), and Kentucky (+2) as teams in the “pretty close” category.
The most overhyped team in the SEC over the last half decade according to this data is South Carolina with a -6 score. LSU comes in just behind the Gamecocks with a -5 score, and Georgia follows them with a -4 score. Mississippi State (+7) is easily the most underhyped team in the SEC in that span, followed by Florida (+4), Vanderbilt (+3), and Missouri (+3).
Tennessee was picked to finish first in the East last season, marking the first time since 2005 that the Vols had been picked to win the division crown. The Vols were picked to finish second in 2015, fifth in 2014, fifth in 2013, and fifth again in 2012. Tennessee underperformed by a spot in 2012 and 2013, finished a spot ahead in 2014, finished right where they were projected to in 2015, and finished a spot below expectations last season.