Well not entirely at the bottom, if you do the math on both hands, the Vols come in somewhere around No. 39.
And, while I am unfortunately not one of the 65 sportswriters that are selected each year to vote on said poll, even with my vote, the Vols would still be sitting in the pool of bottom dwellers.
In a previous article, I said it was unfair that the Vols were unranked, considering a few of their colleagues finished with nearly identical records. But, am I just wearing my Big Orange heart on my sleeve?
Let's examine a few reasons why the Vols didn't break the top 25 in any poll.
I am still a little...a little surprised that so many writers dissed the Vols considering how close they came last year to unseating LSU, resurging against their last opponents, finishing with a top 15 recruiting class and their showing at the Music City Bowl.
Those things alone I believe should have merited a No. 25 spot on the poll. But alas, there were a few other teams that didn't make the list. And, for those of you who don't know how this popularity contest works, here's how.
For each team and its ranking, they are given a vote by each of the 65 writers based on where they think each team should be placed. The points are inverted 1-25. Twenty-five points for first place, 24 points for second place etc. all the way to the end.
Below are the teams that got votes but didn't make it.
Texas 114, Penn State 75, Arizona State 67, Miami (FL) 32, Utah 25, Southern Miss 20, Iowa 19, Brigham Young 15, North Carolina State 15, Air Force 14, Houston 13, Pittsburgh 9, Michigan 7, Tennessee 5, UCF 5, NORIL 4, Hawaii 4, Tulsa 3, Arizona 2, Maryland 2, Nevada 1, Northwestern 1, Washington 1
Oh yeah, the photo should help soften the sting for those of you who are still yelling at the air because USC got the No. 25 spot.
Blah blah blah, don't come at me with anything about how this guy is gonna do this that or the other.
Criteria should focus on strength of schedule...or weakness, returning starters and your finishing record balanced against opposing challengers in the poll. I can see why they want to rank Oklahoma so high...well not really. And USC I can maybe rationalize...nah who am I kidding? But what about Texas? Well, since I asked myself so nicely.
They finished last season 5-7, of those losses, three were against unranked teams. Well, they did beat No. 5 Nebraska by a TD for Pete's sake. Those same Cornhsukers also lost to an unranked Washington in the Holiday Bowl 19-7. Hey, wait a minute. Didn't those infallible Trojans lose to Washington too?
Yes, they sure did. But Oklahoma still deserves it right? Hmm...? Didn't they get beat by the same Mizzou team that beat unranked Texas A&M? Who did the Sooners lose to again?
Yea, this whole voting thing is as legit as my cousin's new chin lift. It all looks good on the surface, but we all know that weak chin is hiding under the plastic.
As much as I would like to run into the backyard screaming at the sky "WHY ARE THE VOLS UNRANKED?!!" I already know.
The Vols did not beat a single team that was ranked. After the dust settled, Tennessee also lost two of its six losses to unranked teams. However, Georgia did manage to find itself a No.19 spot this season ahead of Florida, and North Carolina started out their season ranked No.18 and did manage to beat No.24 FSU late in the season.
Still, it doesn't win any extra points. But, for the record the rest of the losses were against No.7, No.10, No.12, No.8 and No.20.
At least they were respectable losses, the other two were still a rivalry and a bowl game.
For a team that has a total of three seniors on both the offense and defense, that pretty much spells out wet behind the ears.
Despite what Vol fans want to believe, the only real way to win games this season is for the young players to step and REALLY replace the 14 starters that was lost last season.
Nothing fancy about the diss, but inherently, that's what happens to your NCAA credibility when you play starters so young.
Impressions go a long way. Even though the throngs of enthusiastic Vol fans are encouraged by the way HC Derek Dooley is handling the whole thing, there are questions that arise among many journalists.
- Is the program really stable now that Dooley has a firm grip on the reigns?
- How long will Dooley stay?
- Is his staff as good as they say, ok where's the proof?
- Can they beat anybody in the SEC besides Kentucky and Vanderbilt?
- What NCAA sanctions will be levied against the Vols?
- Will the program get better now that AD Mike Hamilton is gone?
- Will the new AD present any new or old problems?
- Will Dooley ever be able to step out of Nick Saban's shadow?
- Is Dooley a good recruiter, too early to tell?
- Was Louisiana Tech the real Derek Dooley?
The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. The Vols haven't really put themselves in a good position to answer any of these questions.
Yes this is obviously an Alabama fan and does not reflect everybody, but to be honest, nobody likes the Vols except the Vols.
I was once in a conversation with a sportswriter from Canada, and he has no idea of my affiliations, that I was from Tennessee or anything of the sort. Anyhow, the topic of college football came up.
I asked him what teams he liked, and he proceeded to name schools like Penn State, Miami, Michigan, UCLA, etc. etc. prominent popular schools. So I asked which schools he disliked. He came back with: "There is only one school that I just can't stand, and that's the Tennessee Volunteers." He then proceeded to rant about the things that Vol fans hold dear as an annoyance and aberration of college football.
While I understand that there is a host of Tennessee admirers out there, the sportswriters are not among them. I sat down at a gathering recently where fellow sportswriters were putting together a mock poll for this season.
While I remained realistic and voted the Vols in at No. 25, of the 33 other writers attending they placed negative 38 points against the Vols and buried them next to Ball State and Miami Ohio.
Like Rodney Dangerfield said: "No respect, no respect at all."