Tennessee dropped their second game of the season, with south carolina dealing with the Vols from start to finish. To make matters worse, quarterback Hedon Hooker was lost all season and tore his cruciate ligament in the fourth quarter. A draining day for Rocky Top on Saturday, there’s still something to fight for.
An updated version of the College Football Playoff ranking was released on Tuesday, with Tennessee ranked No. 10. It’s a steep drop after a loss, but ESPN’s Joey Galloway explained it’s because of the Hooker injury. Going forward, they won’t be the same team without their star quarterback.
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“I think losing the key point is equivalent to losing Hendon Hooker for the remainder of the season,” said Galloway. So not just the loss. But if you rank Tennessee at this stage, you rank them without Hendon Hooker on that roster. Then you lose a few places in the ranking.”
Tennessee has one game left in the regular season and faces an in-state foe Vanderbilt. Then there would be a New Year’s Six bowl game on the table. Which one, there is some debate.
Because Tennessee is behind Alabama, LSU can affect bowl play
Georgia it probably secured its spot in the College Football Playoff. Even with a loss LSU in the SEC Championship game, they will prevail to be included in the final four. We saw it a year ago with UGA and Alabama.
Kirby Smart doesn’t play in a normal New Year’s Six game. That may leave Alabama and LSU, two teams that Tennessee defeated, as the Vols’ competitors for a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
Greg McElroy believes Heupel’s side has earned the right to appear in the best bowl game after head-to-head victories.
“The problem I have here, though, is that it’s going to affect the bowl game that Tennessee ultimately moves into,” said McElroy. “We know they’re not going to a playoff game, we know that, we get that. But Tennessee has earned the right to be in a higher priority scale than LSU and/or Alabama.
When Galloway brought Hooker back up when he was out, McElroy responded by saying more than just that Hooker helped the Vols reach the heights they reached this season.
The highest-ranked SEC team in the final College Football Playoff rankings will make it to the Sugar Bowl, with the Orange Bowl next in line. Whoever is considered the third team of the bunch will most likely attend the Cotton Bowl and face a Group of Five opponent.