Tennessee football: Making sense of Vols Top 15 ranking in ESPN FPI

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images /

Tennessee football came in at No. 15 in ESPN’s Football Power Index for 2019. Here is a look at why Jeremy Pruitt’s Volunteers were so high.

Ah, of course! It’s that time of year again. Way too early preseason polls. Many people have their versions of it, and more times than not, they’re very wrong. Tennessee football teams have experienced this in the past during the Butch Jones era.

Let’s face it, this way too early preseason polls mean absolutely nothing. They’re just fun things to do to trigger fanbases around the country. Take Alabama for example; the ESPN FPI Poll has them at number two. For many Alabama fans, this is an outrage to them. They have most everyone coming back on offense, and their defense is stacked. Clemson is still ahead of the Crimson Tide.

But if there is one thing that was a major shock to me, it’s where the FPI put the Vols. No, they’re not in the Top 10, but they did crack the Top 15. The ESPN FPI Polls are historically pretty accurate. However, when it comes to predicting Tennessee football, they have been wrong.

Take 2015 for example; the ESPN FPI had Tennessee finishing 11-1. While the Vols choked away three games and lost a close one to Arkansas, the FPI was way off. Another example I could give is 2016. The ESPN FPI had Tennessee finishing 12-0! While the talent was on that 2016 roster, again the FPI was inaccurate.

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Don’t get me wrong here, Jeremy Pruitt has built this team to be a successful football program for the upcoming future. But to claim that the Vols are one of the Top 15 teams in America is absolutely bold. At the same time, it seems blasphemous.

I also can see where the ESPN FPI is coming from though as well. UT is returning a lot of starters on both sides of the ball. If this team can learn from its mistakes and execute Pruitt’s schemes, we could be in for a big surprise!

The schedule for the Vols in 2019 is not as brutal as has been in the past few seasons either. So this might also add to that factor of them being in the top 15. This ranking will excite Vol Nation and enrage other fanbases who believe the program on Rocky Top is still not worthy of that prestigious ranking.

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Could the FPI be on to something? They have been wrong in the past with Tennessee football in the past, but they have been right many other times as well. And this time the ranking comes with Pruitt as head coach. Only time will tell!