Tennessee’s 38-point win against Kentucky sends the Volunteers rising to No. 2 in the USA TODAY Sports NCAA Re-Rank 1-131 in advance of Saturday’s must-see SEC matchup with No. 1 Georgia.
The Volunteers have had one of the nation’s very best offenses since the season opener. But the defense has stepped up in recent weeks, including a smothering of Will Levis and the Wildcats.
Overall, Tennessee’s track record is difficult to ignore. With one month left, wins against five opponents then ranked in the Top 25 gives the Volunteers’ a stronger résumé than both No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State.
There’s an argument for having Ohio State as high from No. 1, given how the Buckeyes can be unstoppable in spurts –such as during a scoring barrage to break open Saturday’s 44-31 win against No. 16 Penn State.
But Ohio State has struggled at times to maintain that caliber of play. That the Buckeyes come in fourth among the top contenders in the Bowl Subdivision is a reflection of two factors: one, a mostly unimposing schedule featuring just two Power Five opponents currently holding a winning record; and two, the Buckeyes’ performance against PSU compared to how Michigan blasted the Nittany Lions a week earlier.
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Coming in after this clear top four are No. 5 TCU, No. 6 Clemson, No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Alabama. Two new teams joined the top 10 in No. 9 UCLA and No. 10 Mississippi.
Some of the biggest leaps in this week’s 1-131 are from teams in the Group of Five. Central Florida is up to No. 22 after moving into second place in the American with a key win against Cincinnati. East Carolina comes in at No. 38 after beating Brigham Young. North Texas moved up 21 spots to No. 59 after a convincing win against Western Kentucky.