The Tennessee Vols were the victims of some disrespect this week, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

One of the surest signs that football is on the way is when the SEC media drops their predicted order of finish.

The predicted order of finish for the 2022 season, unsurprisingly, has Alabama and Georgia winning their respective divisions.

I was fully expecting to see Tennessee predicted to finish second in the SEC East. The Vols have a lot of momentum after finishing the 2021 season with a 7-6 record and the No. 7 scoring offense in the nation.

Instead, it’s the Kentucky Wildcats who are predicted to finish second in the SEC East.

If you just look at last season’s standings, then it’s easy to see why Kentucky was picked to finish ahead of Tennessee. The Wildcats were 10-3 last season while the Vols were 7-6.

But there’s much more that goes into a prediction than last year’s standings.

Kentucky is a good team, but Tennessee has a higher ceiling. And let’s not forget that the Vols have the Wildcats’ number — Kentucky has only defeated Tennessee twice in the last 10 years. And both of those wins came during disastrous seasons that saw UT fire its coach at the end of the year (2017 with Butch Jones and 2020 with Jeremy Pruitt).

If the Vols are the better team head to head, then shouldn’t they be picked to finish ahead of the Wildcats?

Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter. These predictions have no bearing on how the season will actually play out.

And really, Tennessee should embrace this prediction. We’ve seen the Vols get hyped during the preseason before only to underperform during the regular season.

It could be good for Tennessee to play this season with a chip on their shoulder. No one is giving them a chance to beat Georgia. The third-place prediction is another slight the Vols can use as motivation this season.

And it’s not that I think Tennessee needs added motivation, but it certainly never hurts.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK