ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his inaugural SP+ rankings for the 2023 football season Tuesday morning. The SP+ rankings is an analytics based ranking system that takes a number of factors into account.
Connelly and his rankings were extremely high on Tennessee ahead of the 2022 season, ranking them at No. 9 ahead of nearly any other preseason rankings.
“SP+ is indeed intended to be predictive and forward-facing,” Connelly explains about his rankings. “It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football.”
There’s three main factors that goes into Connelly’s rankings: returning production, recent recruiting and recent history.
So where does Tennessee rank ahead of the 2023 season?
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Bill Connelly’s inaugural SP+ rankings put Tennessee at No. 6 nationally ahead of the 2023 season. The Vols are one nine SEC teams ranked in the top 25 in the complete rankings.
Josh Heupel’s third Tennessee team is consistently viewed as a top 25 team in the way-too-early preseason rankings but rarely in the top 10. That leads to Connelly saying people should buy stock in the Vols six months ahead of the season opener.
“Who’s ready to ride the Joe Milton roller coaster one last time?? After winning the starting job at both Michigan (in 2020) and Tennessee (in 2021) thanks to the rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder, Milton ended up backing up Hendon Hooker for most of the past two seasons in Knoxville. And if he is finally able to live up to hype, Tennessee could do more than that.
“The Vols are replacing Hooker and star receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman but return most of the defense and plenty of big-play weapons, and SP+ is giving Josh Heupel’s squad the benefit of the doubt.”
Tennessee comes in behind No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama and ahead of No. 7 LSU, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 20 Florida, No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 Kentucky.
Other Tennessee’s opponents in the 2023 season rank 32nd (Missouri), 33rd (South Carolina), 6oth (UTSA), 71st (Vanderbilt), 76th (Virginia) and 120th (UConn).