I think most Vol fans were generally impressed by Josh Heupel’s first season as Tennessee’s head football coach. The guy took a program in shambles to 7 wins and a bowl berth using an insanely fun offense and timely defense.

But while UT fans obviously appreciate what Heupel has done, it’s not a common occurrence that the Vols get any real recognition from folks outside of Knoxville. And they especially don’t get the credit they sometimes deserve from the national media. The blowhards in the non-local press usually can’t stand Tennessee and its fans, but on rare occasions, even they can’t ignore when something good is happening for the Big Orange.

After Monday night’s national championship game (let’s not talk about it) all the national outlets released their “way-too-early” top 25 rankings for 2022. And to my surprise, Tennessee was actually listed on a few of them.

247 Sports ranked the Vols No. 24 and wrote: “Hendon Hooker’s return under center means Josh Heupel brings back his conductor offensively for a team that should challenge for an upper-tier finish in the SEC East.”

CBS Sports placed UT at No. 20 on their list.

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic put the Big Orange near the top 10 at No. 13.

And perhaps most shockingly, dime-store clown Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated placed Tennessee at No. 16 on his rankings.

Even Vegas has the Vols on their radar. FanDuel Sportsbook placed Tennessee’s odds for winning the 2022 national championship at +8000, a long shot for sure but they’re listed alongside teams like Notre Dame and USC.

https://twitter.com/FDSportsbook/status/1480910223464357892?s=20

Getting outside recognition doesn’t mean all that much but it does mean something when you’ve had the tough times that UT football has recently. Josh Heupel made some waves this past season and if he can keep up the good work, those waves should just keep getting bigger.

Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports