They are not expected to compete for the SEC Championship this year and they finished last year unranked and just over .500. Still, Tennessee football remains a huge draw in Josh Heupel’s second season on the job, and that shows the number of games that count as fascinating.
Seven UT games this year have been included in the top 100 games of 2022 by Brandon Marcello of 247Sports. The Vols were one of only five teams to have that many games on the list, and they finished the tournament with three others in second place behind the LSU Tigers, who had eight games.
One of those games for both teams was Tennessee Football’s trip to LSU at No. 49. The other three teams that had seven were the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the Oregon Ducks. Yes, UT and Alabama at No. 40 was another for both teams.
What’s crazy about Rocky Top being so high is the fact that they haven’t had any top 25 games. They didn’t have a bottom 25 games either. They only have a couple of mid-road games that make up the bulk of their schedule and are worth getting into.
Topping the list was her matchup with the Florida Gators at No. 26. Her visit to the Pittsburgh Panthers was No. 44 and her visit to the South Carolina Gamecocks was No. 60. The Kentucky Wildcats came in at No. 70 and The Georgia Bulldogs landed in 74th place.
As a result, every Power Five game for the Vols made the list except for their encounters with the Missouri Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores. That speaks volumes for the interest they’re attracting as a program right now.
Even in the top 50, Tennessee Football occupied the fifth-most games. They joined six other teams who all had four. Ahead of them was Alabama at seven, and then LSU, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Ole Miss Rebels, all at five each.
Also on that list were Arkansas, Florida, the Clemson Tigers, the Texas Longhorns, the Texas A&M Aggies, and the Utah Utes. Again, the Vols’ matchup with the Gators helped propel both teams onto the top-50 list, just as it helped UT push that list higher in general.
You could argue that mediocrity helps pull these games, claiming that the Vols are just mediocre enough to make Kentucky and South Carolina interesting. However, they would still have to be just good enough to make Alabama and Georgia interesting.
Maybe that’s why they hit that sweet spot. After all, Arkansas and LSU aren’t exactly considered national title contenders this year, and they were in the top five. Oregon was too and is going through a coaching change.
Still, all of these programs have had more recent success than Tennessee Football, so the excitement behind what Heupel is building must have played some part in that. It’s pretty clear among Rocky Top fans that this program is a draw once again.