Complete disrespect for Tennessee football by ESPN is nothing new. That dates back to the network’s voters changing the standard for the Heisman the one year Peyton Manning was up for it. Over two decades later, the network still goes out of its way to disrespect Rocky Top.
This time, it’s based on the future of programs. Conventional wisdom among most experts is that the Vols’ future is bright at UT under Josh Heupel. However, the Vols were still left out of the college football future top 25 power rankings by Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.
Rittenberg seemed to base this on basic metrics, most notably coaching staffs and recent “on-field trajectory,” which implies recent success on the field that seems to imply more success in the future. Transfer portal success, NIL opportunities and recruiting are all lesser factors.
Using all of that but not actually listing these methods, Tennessee football somehow did not crack the list. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators both got on there, at No. 25 and No. No. 22 respectively. How does that work out?
By the article’s own admission, Kentucky’s 2022 future quarterback ranking, 2022 future offense ranking and 2021 future team ranking were all unranked. Only their 2022 future defense ranking was listed, as it came in at No. 18.
We can not see the future rankings of each of these individual assets, but it’s a pretty safe bet the Vols are top 25 in 2022 future QB and offensive rankings. As a result, it makes no sense to leave them off here while putting Kentucky on.
There are clearly more NIL opportunities for Tennessee football, the better recruiting class produced mixed results and depended on the service you guy by, and the Vols had much more success in the transfer portal, losing fewer guys and adding more, including more highly touted guys . That all has to count.
Somehow, though, they got no love in these top 25 rankings. If staff stability was that much of a factor, then it makes no sense to have Florida ahead of them either. After all, the Vols had a better record than Florida last year, they had a higher ranked recruiting class across every service, and they had more net success in the portal
When you add in the fact that Florida has a new head coach in Billy Napier, the only case you could make for them is that they beat the Vols last year. Well, if head-to-head matters, though, then shouldn’t that work in UT’s favor against Kentucky?
All of this shows that the method is blatantly inconsistent when measuring these teams, meaning it’s just based on a bias against Tennessee football. Nothing else is new when it comes to ESPN, but this one was just embarrassing. There’s no consistent method that would put both Kentucky and Florida above the Vols.