On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Tennessee football fell to No. 5 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings after its 27-13 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, now No. 1. The fundamentals suggest they control their own destiny to get in.
After all, the No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines face off later this month. Should the Vols win out, they would obviously leapfrog the loser of that game, meaning they can’t do any worse than No. 4 the rest of the way, right?
Well, it doesn’t exactly work like that. Tennessee football is No. 5 based on resume right now. The Vols actually fell behind the TCU Horned Frogs in that ranking. TCU needing a comeback to get by the Texas Tech Red Raiders did enough to move ahead of UT.
What does that mean? Well, it means the Vols’ resume isn’t as on rock solid ground as you might think. Clearly, the committee took into account the way they lost to UGA, not just the fact that they lost. Otherwise, they would’ve remained ahead of TCU, just as the Alabama Crimson Tide did last week.
If that’s the case, well, the Vols are more than capable of falling even if they win out. That’s because their final three games are against the Missouri Tigers, South Carolina Gamecocks and Vanderbilt Commodores. None of those games will boost their resume.
Right behind UT is the team that also got blown out by UGA, the Oregon Ducks. Oregon lost 49-3 to open the season to the Dawgs. However, the committee clearly feels UT’s loss didn’t look that much better. It happened later in the season, and Oregon has chances at multiple quality wins down the stretch.
Remember, Oregon will face off against in all likelihood the winner between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins in the Pac-12 Championship, and the Vols likely will not be playing in the SEC Championship that same weekend. TCU in 2014 can tell you you’ll drop if you don’t play and the other team looks good in a week.
At that point, you can’t just think about Oregon. USC and UCLA could also get in there. If the winner of that game beats Oregon and none of the teams stumble up to that point, that team will have scored back to back top 10 wins.
Speaking of top 10 and quality wins, one thing helping the Vols may end up hurting them. Alabama came in at No. 8 in the rankings after losing to the LSU Tigers, who came in at No. 7. Tennessee football has those two quality wins in their back pocket.
However, Alabama visits the Ole Miss Rebels this weekend, and given the way they have played, that seems like it could easily be a loss. What if Alabama does stumble and finished the year 9-3? Are they the same caliber of a win? At that point, an LSU team that lost to the Florida State Seminoles to open the year is the Vols’ best win.
Taking all this into account, that No. 5 ranking is honestly very unstable. Tennessee football has to put on a show over the next three weeks to not stumble. At the same time, the Vols may end up needing some help after all. If they were No. 4, the belief in them would’ve been more clear. At No. 5, it becomes a real question.