Tennessee Earns First No. 1 Ranking Since Winning National Title in 1998

by Nick Geddes
(Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

Tennessee (8-0) is officially the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for the first time since winning the national championship in 1998.

The first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings were revealed Tuesday with the Volunteers on top — thanks to a dominant start to the 2022 season. Tennessee is followed by Ohio State (8-0), Georgia (8-0) and Clemson (8-0) to round out the top four.

In just his second season in Knoxville, head coach Josh Heupel has turned Tennessee into a powerhouse. The Volunteers have shown they can win convincingly, as shown this past weekend in the 44-6 victory over Kentucky (5-3). They’ve also shown they can slay the giants and win close games, as seen in the 52-49 win against No. 6 Alabama (7-1) on Oct. 15.

Heupel’s explosive offense has been a nightmare to opposing defenses, with Tennessee pacing the nation in both total yards (553.0) and points per game (49.4). Quarterback Hendon Hooker, the Virginia Tech transfer, has transformed himself into an NFL-caliber player in two years in Heupel’s system. Hooker is arguably the Heisman frontrunner, having completed 71.2% of his passes for 2,338 yards with 25 total touchdowns and just one interception.

Tennessee One-of-Five SEC Teams in College Football Playoff Rankings

Heupel said on ESPN that he wants his team to “embrace” being the No. 1 team in the land.

“We talked about it earlier in the week knowing that the rankings would come out,” Heupel said, via On3. “Didn’t know where we would be ranked but figured we’d be somewhere near the top. At the end of the day, one of the things that our players have done here is we’ve tried to enjoy the journey. And take moments of pause to reflect and enjoy what our players have built here. They built this. And three years ago it didn’t look like this. But this is a proud tradition and a massive fan base that loves the Power T and they’re excited about the way our players are playing.

“Embrace it, they understand that the reason we’re in this situation is because of the way we prepare, the way we practice — and then we go play for each other on game day. And that’s gonna be the same message this Saturday.”

This Saturday as in a showdown against Georgia — a game that will likely decide the SEC East. The Bulldogs host the Volunteers at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.

Alabama Below Top Four After Loss to Tennessee

Elsewhere in the rankings, one of the major talking points is where the committee would rank TCU (8-0). The Horned Frogs sit atop the Big 12, but are on the outside looking in of the top six. They sit just one spot below the Crimson Tide at No. 7, though Nick Saban’s squad has the one loss on their record.

CFP Selection Committee chairman Boo Corrigan cited Alabama’s strong strength of schedule for why they are ranked ahead of TCU.

“We’re looking for a balanced team, offense and defense, and [TCU] has gotten behind in some games,” Corrigan said. “They’ve been able to come back and win those games. But when you look at Alabama — in the wins against Mississippi State, at Arkansas, at Texas and obviously the three-point loss at Tennessee — as a committee, we decided to go Alabama No. 6 and TCU No. 7.”

Full College Football Rankings

  1. Tennessee (8-0)
  2. Ohio State (8-0)
  3. Georgia (8-0)
  4. Clemson (8-0)
  5. Michigan (8-0)
  6. Alabama (7-1)
  7. TCU (8-0)
  8. Oregon (7-1)
  9. USC (7-1)
  10. LSU (6-2)
  11. Ole Miss (8-1)
  12. UCLA (7-1)
  13. Kansas State (6-2)
  14. Utah (6-2)
  15. Penn State (6-2)
  16. Illinois (7-1)
  17. North Carolina (7-1)
  18. Oklahoma State (6-2)
  19. Tulane (7-1)
  20. Syracuse (6-2)
  21. Wake Forest (6-2)
  22. NC State (6-2)
  23. Oregon State (6-2)
  24. Texas (5-3)
  25. UCF (6-2)