With baseball season over and the calendar poised to turn from June to July we’re getting closer to college football season. Excitement is high in Knoxville for Josh Heupel’s third season as Tennessee looks to continue its momentum from a fantastic 2022 season without stars like Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt.
The Athletic’s Austin Mock released a preseason top 25 earlier this week. However, it is not a traditional top 25. Mock’s rankings are via a model he’s created that tried to predict results for this fall’s games using a number of factors. Here’s how he describes it.
“My model takes in play-by-play data from every game but also factors in returning production, recruiting rankings and transfers,” Mock wrote. “For now, it relies on projections, but as the season starts, those games will become a more important factor in the formula.
With the ratings in place, the model can simulate every game in the entire season. Those simulated seasons produce a variety of outcomes, which show how often a team win its conference or the national title, for example. That’s how you can see the projected win totals, which is an average of the wins they got throughout the simulations, and conference title chances in the team capsules below.”
So what does the model predict for Tennessee football’s 2023 season?
Tennessee ranks No. 7 nationally in the preseason rankings coming in behind SEC foes Georgia (No. 1), Alabama (No. 2) and LSU (No. 6). The Vols are one of nine SEC teams in the rankings and rank ahead of Texas A&M (No. 15), Ole Miss (No. 16), Auburn (No. 20), Missouri (No. 22) and Kentucky (No. 25).
A top 25 ranking is rarely an accurate portrayal of how exactly teams stack up against one another. Mock describes this well when discussing the tiers of teams. Georgia is alone at the top, the second to fourth ranked teams are in a tier of their own before the fifth to 20th ranked teams are in the third tier. The Athletic writer also adds that there’s a very small gap between the 21st and 40th ranked team in his model.
Not only did Mock use his model to rank teams but he used it to project the number of wins for each team and their chance to win their given conference.
Tennessee is projected to win 8.8 regular season games and has a 6.9% chance to with the Southeastern Conference this fall for the first time since 1998.
Georgia is the favorite to win the SEC coming in with a 49.5% chance to win its second straight conference title. Alabama has a 30.3% chance to win the SEC and LSU has an 8% chance. After Tennessee there’s a major drop off in conference title chances.
Texas A&M boasts a 1.3% chance to win the SEC according to Mock’s model with Ole Miss right behind the Aggis at 1.2%.