Tennessee is unranked in the AP Preseason Top 25.
However, the Vols may not have to wait long to see a number next to their name. Tennessee earned more votes than any unranked team, making them essentially the No. 26 team in the country.
The Associated Press voters followed the lead of the Coaches Poll last week which left Tennessee unranked but third in receiving votes (No. 28).
Josh Heupel’s second team in Knoxville ranks behind No. 23 Cincinnati (265), No. 24 Houston (263) and No. 25 BYU (234) with 180 votes. The Vols come ahead of unranked teams Texas (164), Iowa (163) and Penn State (160).
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Six SEC teams inhibit the preseason ranking, including No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 19 Arkansas, No. 20 Kentucky and No. 21 Ole Miss. The Vols face just three of those teams this season while also facing No. 17 Pittsburgh in week two.
With Tennessee earning more votes than any unranked team — and Cincinnati traveling to Arkansas to open the season — there’s a great chance the Vols will be ranked by the time they arrive in Pittsburgh to face the Panthers.
The Vols will face a handful of other teams receiving votes including LSU (55), Florida (14) and South Carolina (2).
The SEC’s media predicted Tennessee to finish third in the SEC East behind Georgia and Kentucky. Tennessee finished third in the east a season ago, posting an 7-6 (4-4 SEC) record in Heupel’s first season.
Tennessee returns an abundance of talent from last season’s team including quarterback Hendon Hooker and receiver Cedric Tillman.
The Vols kick off their 2022 season on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET against Ball State.