Tennessee Football: Predicting Where the Vols Rank in the AP Preseason Poll

Stephen WilliamsContributor IIIAugust 16, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers watches on against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s an exciting time in Knoxville.

Football season is quickly approaching, and the University of Tennessee actually has a team that is capable of competing in the SEC for the first time in Derek Dooley’s three years at the helm.

As the days go by, and the opening game with North Carolina State gets closer, the excitement level grows. However, the excitement surrounding the Volunteers isn’t quite as high outside of the Tennessee fan base.

When the Associated Press preseason poll comes out on Saturday, no one will be surprised that the Vols don’t show up in the Top 25. After all, Tennessee wasn’t among the Top 25 in the Coaches poll that was released one week ago. They were, however, in the receiving votes category.

While the excitement level is skyrocketing in Knoxville, the rest of the country is still skeptical that the Vols can make the kind of marked improvement from last year necessary to vault them into the Top 25.

The Vols haven’t found themselves in the rankings since before the start of the 2008 season. However, there will be an opportunity to change that in 2012.

Looking at the Vols’ schedule, Tennessee could find a spot in the rankings as early as late September.

Tennessee opens with NC State in Atlanta on August 31. The Wolfpack were in the receiving votes category, as well as in the Coaches poll. Should the Vols win in convincing fashion, they will start to catch the eye of those across the country.

The following week, the Vols play Georgia State at home. An easy victory won’t have any effect on the voters.

However, in game three, Tennessee welcomes the Florida Gators to Neyland Stadium.

A win over the Gators, who were ranked number 23 in the Coaches poll, would likely push the Vols into position to crack the Top 25 for the first time in over four years.

There are a lot of ifs leading up to the football season in Knoxville, but the path back into the Top 25 may not be as far off as some people think.

While the Vols don’t figure to see their name in the poll released Saturday, their return may come sooner than later.