It’s not a surprise since they have been below the Alabama Crimson Tide since losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks, but Tennessee football finished below them in the AP and Coaches Polls. The Vols came in at No. 6.
Alabama was No. 5. Obviously, the Georgia Bulldogs came in at No. 1 followed by the TCU Horned Frogs at No. 2, Michigan Wolverines at No. 3 and Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 4. Both polls were exactly the same.
These rankings taken together prove exactly the method the voters use, and it’s not a good one. They are effectively power rankings with the previous week’s ranking as the default setting.
How else could you explain the Vols being below Alabama? They beat Alabama head to head, and both teams have the same record. Also, UT is 2-0 against common opponents while Alabama is 1-1.
That one loss is to an LSU Tigers team on the road, one the Vols beat by 27 in that same stadium. If you want to hold that 25-point loss to South Carolina against UT, why not hold losing to a team that UT beat by 27 against Alabama? Shouldn’t this be a body of work?
Well, it should, but it isn’t. Now, head to head wasn’t ignored everywhere. TCU just got embarrassed by Georgia 65-7, but they remained ahead of Michigan because they beat them in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
Michigan, meanwhile, remained ahead of Ohio State. One consistent theme for all six teams emerges that shows this is nothing but a power ranking: the team that won most recently got the edge.
Georgia won more recently than all of them, so they come in at No. 1. TCU won the second most recently, so they are No. 2. Although the Vols and Alabama each won the third most recently, they had two regular season losses.
That was enough to keep them below the playoff teams. Here’s where the default previous rankings come into play. Obviously, Michigan won more recently than Ohio State, so they get to finish No. 3.
Simply put, there’s no credibility with these rankings anymore. Honestly, there probably never was. How can any writer or coach have the time to watch and properly analyze all 25 teams they are ranking? They can’t.
In the past, some of them outright made jokes of the poll. Steve Spurrier, when he had a vote in the Coaches Poll, always gave the Duke Blue Devils a top 25 vote until they lost because they gave him his first head coaching job.
When the BCS relied heavily on the Coaches Poll to pick a national champion and it was down to Alabama and the Oklahoma State Cowboys vying for the No. 2 spot to face the LSU Tigers in 2011, Nick Saban had a vote. Obviously, he voted for his team.
Saban didn’t just put his team at No. 2, though. Rather than put Oklahoma State No. 3, he voted them at no. 4 below the Stanford Cardinal, helping to skew the poll in his direction. Mike Gundy didn’t have a vote that year.
Unfair treatment by the AP Poll is nothing new for Tennessee football. Their first final ranking came in 1938, when they went 11-0, won the Orange Bowl and won the SEC Championship. They finished No. 2 to TCU.
In fact, from 1938 to 1940, the Vols won every regular season game. They went undefeated, untied and unscored on in 1939. However, they never finished No. 1 in the AP Poll. Sure, they lost two of three bowl games back then, but bowls were exhibitions.
Lack of research by voters, recency bias and using previous rankings as a default are all reasons for how these polls finish off. Tennessee football got robbed of a top five finish because of those things.