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From Unranked to No. 6: Vols Record Highest Poll Finish Since 2001

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A record-setting season that culminated with a Capital One Orange Bowl victory has catapulted the Tennessee Volunteers to their highest poll finish in 21 years. The Vols were tabbed No. 6 in the final Associated Press Top 25 and AFCA Coaches poll released on Tuesday.

That represents the highest poll finish for Tennessee (11-2) since it concluded 2001 at No. 4 in both polls. The Vols were one of six SEC teams in the final polls, joining top-ranked Georgia, No. 5/5 Alabama, No. 16/15 LSU, No. 20/19 Mississippi State and No. 23/23 South Carolina.

Tennessee defeated four foes in the final AP Top 25, which was the second-highest total among teams in the final poll behind only Georgia’s seven. The Vols beat No. 5 Alabama, trounced No. 13 Clemson by 17 points in Miami, recorded their largest margin of victory (27 points) over No. 16 LSU since 1940 and toppled No. 22 Pitt on the road in overtime.

It’s the 24th time that UT has finished in the top 10 of the AP poll and the 19th such time in the Coaches rankings. The Vols, under the direction of National Coach of the Year finalist Josh Heupel, concluded the year ranked in the top 10 for 12 consecutive weeks, representing the program’s longest streak in the same season since all 17 weeks of the 1999 campaign. It’s also the 45th time that Tennessee has finished in the AP Top 25, which ranks ninth nationally and second in SEC history.

The climb to the top 10 was further remarkably illustrated by the fact that the Vols entered the season unranked in both polls. While receiving votes in August, it took UT four weeks to enter the top 10, including the No. 1 spot in the initial College Football Playoff rankings on Nov. 1. It’s the ninth time in AP poll history that the Vols began a season unranked and finished ranked. It was the best finish from a preseason unranked UT team since the 1989 team went from unranked to No. 5 after winning the SEC championship and Cotton Bowl.

In six years as a head coach, Heupel has now led his teams to a final ranking three times. His 2018 UCF team finished No. 11/12, while his 2019 squad was No. 24 in both final polls.

Final Associated Press Top 25
1. Georgia (63), 15-0
2. TCU, 13-2
3. Michigan, 13-1
4. Ohio State, 11-2
5. Alabama, 11-2
6. Tennessee, 11-2
7. Penn State, 11-2
8. Washington, 11-2
9. Tulane, 12-2
10. Utah, 10-4
11. Florida State, 10-3
12. USC, 11-3
13. Clemson, 11-3
14. Kansas State, 10-4
15. Oregon, 10-3
16. LSU, 10-4
17. Oregon State, 10-3
18. Notre Dame, 9-4
19. Troy, 12-2
20. Mississippi State, 9-4
21. UCLA, 9-4
22. Pittsburgh, 9-4
23. South Carolina, 8-5
24. Fresno State, 10-4
25. Texas, 8-5

Final AFCA Coaches Poll
1. Georgia (63), 15-0
2. TCU, 13-2
3. Michigan, 13-1
4. Ohio State, 11-2
5. Alabama, 11-2
6. Tennessee, 11-2
7. Penn State, 11-2
8. Washington, 11-2
9. Tulane, 12-2
10. Florida State, 10-3
11. Utah, 10-4
12. Clemson, 11-3
13. USC, 11-3
14. Kansas State, 10-4
15. LSU, 10-4
16. Oregon, 10-3
17. Oregon State, 10-3
18. Notre Dame, 9-4
19. Mississippi State, 9-4
20. Troy, 12-2
21. UCLA, 9-4
22. Pittsburgh, 9-4
23. South Carolina, 8-5
24. Fresno State, 10-4
25. Texas, 8-5

All-Time Tennessee Poll Finishes
Year – Associated Press/Coaches/CFP
1936 – 17
1938 – 2
1939 – 2
1940 – 4
1941 – 18
1942 – 7
1944 – 12
1945 – 14
1946 – 7
1949 – 17
1950 – 4/3
1951 – 1/1
1952 – 8/8
1956 – 2/2
1957 – 13/16
1960 – NR/19
1965 – 7/7
1966 – NR/14
1967 – 2/2
1968 – 13/7
1969 – 15/11
1970 – 4/4
1971 – 9/9
1972 – 8/11
1973 – 19/NR
1974 – 20/15
1985 – 4/4
1987 – 14/13
1989 – 5/5
1990 – 8/7
1991 – 14/15
1992 – 12/12
1993 – 12/11
1994 – 22/18
1995 – 3/2
1996 – 9/9
1997 – 7/8
1998 – 1/1
1999 – 9/9
2001 – 4/4
2003 – 15/16
2004 – 13/15
2006 – 25/23
2007 – 12/12
2015 – 22/23
2016 – 22/24
2022 – 6/6/6

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