Vols finish at No. 6 in final College Football Playoff rankings

Tennessee might always wonder what might have happened after losing a pair of games in November, but the Vols still had a very good season that surpassed most if not all preseason expectations. The final College Football Playoff rankings were released on Sunday and Tennessee Landed at No. 6. The 10-2 Vols are set to face ACC Champion Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl on December 30 in Miami.

The Vols become just the second team – joining Mississippi State in 2014 – to be ranked No. 1 in the debut CFP rankings and not make the four-team Playoff, but this still qualifies as a breakthrough season for what was a downtrodden program when Tennessee Hired Josh Heupel from UCF as its new head coach in January 2021.

Tennessee claimed memorable wins against Alabama and Florida and dominant wins against LSU and Kentucky, plus the overtime road win at Pittsburgh that got things rolling, and the Vols were the top offense in college football, averaging 538 yards and 47 points per game.

After starting 8-0, Tennessee lost to Georgia to see its SEC Championship hopes slip away, then at South Carolina to see its Playoff chances doused. Without the 25-point loss in Columbia, might an 11-1 Tennessee have gotten into the top four after losses by TCU (Big 12) and Southern California (Pac-12) in their respective conference championship games? It could have been between Tennessee and Ohio State for the final spot, but the bottom line is we’ll never know.

Byron Young (Photo: Brianna Paciorka, Knoxville News Sentinel)

Tennessee’s Positioning behind an Alabama team it beat has been a point of consternation for fans this week and more talking heads and analysts have openly wondered about the CFP committee ignoring the hard evidence of a head-to-head result played out on the field Proving who the better, more deserving team is, but at least the Vols didn’t have to deal with a Nightmare scenario of the Crimson Tide, who would have been fourth in the SEC based on the standings, inexplicably getting into the Playoff.

Instead the semifinals will see Georgia play Ohio State in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and Michigan face TCU in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, Alabama is headed to the Sugar Bowl to play Big 12 Champion Kansas State and Tennessee will face Clemson.

The Vols last had an 11-win season in 2001, which was also the last time Tennessee finished a season ranked in the top five (fourth).

FINAL CFP COMMITTEE RANKINGS (December 4)

1. Georgia (13-0)
2. Michigan (13-0)
3. TCU (12-1)
4. Ohio State (11-1)
5. Alabama (10-2)
6. Tennessee (10-2)
7. Clemson (11-2)
8. Utah (10-3)
9. Kansas State (10-3)
10. Southern California (11-2)
11. Penn State (10-2)
12. Washington (10-2)
13. Florida State (9-3)
14. Oregon State (9-3)
15. Oregon (9-3)
16. Tulane (11-2)
17. LSU (9-4)
18. UCLA (9-3)
19. South Carolina (8-4)
20. Texas (8-4)
21. Notre Dame (8-4)
22. Mississippi State (8-4)
23. NC State (8-4)
24. Troy (11-2)
25. UTSA (11-2)

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