The Tennessee Vols learned the hard way after losing to South Carolina that media biases still exist.

Tennessee fell to No. 9 in the latest AP Top 25 poll after their 63-38 loss to the Gamecocks on Saturday night.

Falling from No. 5 to No. 9 after losing to an unranked team is definitely fair.

What’s not fair, though, is that Tennessee is ranked behind two two-loss teams that they beat this season.

LSU, a team that lost by 27 points to the Vols at home, is ranked No. 6. And Alabama, which lost to Tennessee 52-49, is ranked No. 8.

Tennessee Vols
Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Tennessee Volunteers place kicker Chase McGrath (40) kicks a field goal against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina is certainly worse than either LSU or Alabama’s losses.

But the Vols still have the same amount of losses and they beat both of those teams head-to-head.

Tennessee also has wins over two top 10 teams (LSU and Bama) while Alabama has none and LSU has only one (against Alabama).

Something else worth noting is that Tennessee’s other loss came on the road against Georgia, the No. 1 team in the nation. That loss is “better” than any of the losses from Alabama and LSU.

So why does this matter?

Well, the AP Top 25 poll technically doesn’t matter. But if the College Football Playoff rankings mirror the AP Top 25 matters, it will absolutely matter.

That’s because the Sugar Bowl takes the highest-ranked SEC team that doesn’t make the playoff.

Now that the playoff is not an option for the Vols, the next best scenario for them is making the Sugar Bowl.

And based on these rankings, the Vols likely won’t be heading to New Orleans because two teams they beat head-to-head (and that have the same amount of losses) are ranked higher.

We’ll know for sure where the Vols stand on Tuesday when the CFP rankings are released, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re very similar to the AP rankings.

That would mean for Tennessee to make the Sugar Bowl, they’d likely need LSU to beat Georgia in the SEC Championship game and Alabama to lose to Auburn next Saturday.

And of course, the Vols need to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday.

Up until last night, that game wasn’t much of a concern. But after seeing Tennessee implode against South Carolina, and watching Vandy beat Florida, that’s suddenly a toss-up game.

The Vols can still get to 11 wins for the first time since 2001, but they have their work cut out for them in their next two games (including the bowl game) — especially if quarterback Hendon Hooker doesn’t return to the field this season after injuring his knee against South Carolina.

Featured image via Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports