There is no more perfect of an example about how split perception is around the 2017 Vols than a recent prediction piece that writers from CBS Sports put together about the entire SEC.
Seven writers for CBS Sports got together to make predictions for the upcoming 2017 SEC football season. The writers chose their predicted order of finish in both divisions, the conference champion, their most overrated team, their most underrated team, and gave some bold predictions for the season.
And according to the results, the Vols are somehow both the most overrated and most underrated team in the SEC this season.
Jerry Palm believes the Vols are the most overrated team in the SEC heading into the 2017 season. And here’s why he believes that:
The thought of Tennessee being overrated could become a trend. Last year, the Vols started the season ninth the the AP Top 25 and were out of the top 25 at the end of the regular season, although a bowl win pushed them to No. 22. This year, the expectations are a little lower, but there are still a lot of questions. Tennessee has to replace quarterback Josh Dobbs and leading receiver Josh Malone; it has already replaced the offensive coordinator. The defense was a huge disappointment a year ago, especially against the run. Not only do the Vols have to fix that, but they have to replace Derek Barnett, their all-time leader in sacks. Throw in a schedule that has Alabama and LSU as cross-division games, and the thought of finishing in the top 25 seems pretty optimistic.
But just a few more paragraphs down and you can find Tennessee’s name yet again. Only this time it’s in the section talking about the most underrated teams in the conference.
Tom Fornelli believes the Vols are the most underrated team in the SEC this season. Which is odd considering how much Fornelli has hated on Butch Jones this offseason, listing him as the coach on the hottest seat in America and having him ranked outside the top 50 coaches in the Power Five.
But despite his dislike of Jones, Fornelli thinks the 2017 Vols are underrated. And here’s why:
Can somebody explain to me how South Carolina received more first-place votes in the preseason SEC media poll than Tennessee? I understand the Vols didn’t meet the hype last year, but they got off to an excellent start before injuries began piling up. I also understand that there are plenty of questions surrounding this team entering 2017, but which team in the SEC East can we not say that about? The Vols have just as good a shot at winning the East as everyone else, and they have a better shot than South Carolina.
Texas A&M also got the strange, dual-view treatment. The Aggies were also on both of the lists of most overrated and most underrated teams.
When it came time to vote for the order of finish for each division, Fornelli’s sentiment about South Carolina being viewed more positively than the Vols proved true. Three of the seven writers voted Tennessee to finish third in the SEC East while four of the seven voted them to finish fourth in the division. Every writer who voted for the Vols to finish fourth put South Carolina ahead of them.
All seven writers also gave their bold predictions for the season, and Dennis Dodd’s prediction was about the Vols.
“Butch Jones will make it through the season,” Dodd wrote. “Seriously, that’s bold since almost everyone has him an early casualty.”
Dodd’s “bold prediction” of Jones surviving the season seems less likely if his predicted order of finish proves true. Dodd was one of the four writers who chose Tennessee to finish fourth in the division.
The Vols are appearing to be a fairly polarizing team yet again this season much like they were last year. And that fact can be perfectly seen by just how different the writers at CBS Sports view this team.