Where Tennessee Football Lands in Final SEC Power Rankings

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    With the College Football National Championship conclusion on Monday, the season has officially come to an end.

    In hindsight, it was an incredibly successful year for the SEC. The championship game was a repeat of the SEC Championship, 13 of the 14 teams made it to a bowl game, and the Heisman Trophy winner was once again from the SEC.

    On the Tennessee side of things, in his inaugural season at Tennessee, head coach Josh Heupel led the Vols to an overall record of 7-6 with an overtime loss to Purdue in the Music City Bowl. The Vols’ program was reinvigorated after the wind was taken out of the sails in Jeremy Pruitt’s final season in 2020. And now, looking to 2022, the Vols will be returning several key starters in what is shaping out to be a seemingly optimistic season.

    After the 2021 season, 247 Sports released its final SEC Power Rankings of the year. Unsurprisingly, Georgia and Alabama are on top after going toe-to-toe in the national championship. Behind the division winners are Ole Miss at No. 3 and Kentucky at No. 4 after both teams finished the season with a 10-3 record. In the No. 5 slot is Arkansas after their 9-4 season and No. 6 is Texas A&M at 8-4 on the year.

    According to 247’s SEC Power Rankings, the Tennessee Volunteers end the season in the No. 7 spot, right above South Carolina.

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    “Josh Heupel showed off his knowledge of offense during his first campaign with the Vols and managed to turn this thing around quickly in Knoxville,” 247 Sports’ Brad Crawford wrote on Tuesday. “This looks like the right hire at Tennessee given the noticeable improvements and if Heupel can recruit at a high level, he’s going to give the Vols a shot at the top of the division in a short time. Hendon Hooker was marvelous at times at quarterback this season and his return in 2022 brings expansive optimism at Tennessee.”

    Tennessee accomplished many goals throughout the season, but one that was incredibly important did happen. At the end of the season, Tennessee cemented itself above South Carolina, Missouri, Florida, and Vanderbilt. While Kentucky is still above Tennessee, though, the Vols did beat the Wildcats in Lexington in November. In past seasons, Tennessee has struggled to consistently beat the “bottom-half” of the SEC. Before the Vols can go compete for the top spot in the SEC East, Tennessee had to separate themselves from everyone not named Florida and Georgia in the division. With Tennessee above Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and a win against fourth-slotted Kentucky in Heupel’s first year, the Vols are certainly trending upwards in the battle of the SEC East. The critical thing for Tennessee is going to be the sustained success against the Missouris and South Carolinas of the division.

    In the eighth spot of the power rankings is South Carolina, followed by Mississippi State in the ninth slot and LSU at 10. In the 11th spot is Auburn, No. 12 is Missouri, No. 13 is Florida, and No. 14 is Vanderbilt.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.