ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his final preseason college football SP+ rankings Sunday morning and the metric continues to be high on Tennessee.
The Vols come in at No. 10 on the preseason rankings— the fifth highest ranked Tennessee team in SP+ rankings.
The SP+ rankings are analytics backed rankings that take three primary factors into account.
“Returning production (final rankings for which you can find at the bottom of this piece), recent recruiting and recent history. How good have you been recently? Who do you have coming back? How good are the players replacing those you don’t have coming back? That’s loosely what we ask when we’re setting expectations for a team subjectively; it’s also what these projections attempt to do objectively.”
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The SP+ rankings are incredibly high on Josh Heupel’s offense, projecting the Vols’ offense to be the nation’s third best this fall behind only Ohio State and Alabama.
Tennessee returns eight of 11 starters on the offensive side of the ball including preseason Second Team All-SEC selections Hendon Hooker and Cedric Tillman.
Hooker is looking to build off his breakout 2021 season while Tillman has the ability to be one of the best receivers in the country.
The rankings are understandably much lower on Tennessee’s defense, projecting them to be the 58th best defense in the nation. The Vols’ defense was below average a season ago and lost three players to the NFL Draft: Theo Jackson, Alontae Taylor and Matthew Butler.
Tennessee hopes improved pass rush from veterans Tyler Baron and Byron Young can bolster the Vols’ defense to major improvements in Tim Banks’ second season.
The SP+ rankings predict Tennessee to win eight games in the regular season. The Vols play the No. 1 team (Alabama), No. 2 team (Georgia), No. 11 team (Kentucky), No. 23 team (Pittsburgh), No. 26 team (Florida) and the No. 28 team (LSU) in the rankings.