For years it’s felt like the national media is out to get the Tennessee Vols.
Every year it seems like there are numerous scathing columns written about Tennessee.
Usually, those columns are directed at the Vols fan base. But occasionally there’s some shade thrown at Tennessee’s lack of on-field success over the last 15 years.
Whether or not those columns/takes are fair is up for debate. It’s all subjective, after all.
This week, however, saw the national media’s tune change a bit.
For starters, the Vols were predicted by former Alabama star Roman Harper, a two-time former Pro-Bowler with the New Orleans Saints, to finish the 2022 season with a 10-2 record.
The only two games that Harper thinks Tennessee will lose are the Alabama and LSU matchups.
The other way the national media changed its tune on Tennessee this week came via ESPN.
They pointed out Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker as one of the 25 most important players in 2022’s College Football Playoff race.
If you buy into Tennessee’s borderline top-10 SP+ projections, you could view Hooker and the Vols as longshot title contenders. But if that proves a bridge too far — and it probably should — there’s still nothing saying they can’t be a great spoiler. Tennessee should have one of the best offenses in the country, and Hooker is the perfect pilot, combining accurate passing (68% completion rate) with big-play potential (14.3 yards per completion) and a strong presence in the run game (6.1 yards per non-sack carry).
The Vols topped 40 points in seven of his 11 starts last year and could be even more dangerous this time around.
ESPN stopped just short of calling UT a darkhorse title contender — which I think is fair, the Vols are there quite yet — but their change in tone about Tennessee is noticeable.
They feel like the Vols are going to be a team that potentially impacts the College Football Playoff, which means they think Tennessee has a shot at beating either Georgia or Alabama.
The belief in Josh Heupel and his staff is continuing to grow. The results last season were impossible to ignore. And as a result, the Vols are no longer a punchline. Instead, folks are taking Tennessee seriously this season.
Featured image via USA TODAY Sports