Football flights: Tennessee soars in FPI rankings after Missouri win

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A 62-point exit and a 38-point victory in the SEC game will do wonders for a team’s position in the metrics world. ESPN’s REIT took note of Tennessee’s performance last weekend in Missouri, propelling volunteers to 26th place in the country.

Josh Heupel has enjoyed a more consistent offense since being forced to turn to Hendon Hooker for quarterback. Joe Milton’s injury opened that door and Hooker doesn’t seem interested in returning the gig. Heupel officially named the Hooker Tennessee starter on Monday, write it at the top of the depth chart for the first time.

Hooker’s efficiency is one of the main reasons Tennessee has jumped in the REIT rankings. His 10-1 TD-INT ratio is impressive, and what he brings to the rushed attacking can’t be ignored either. It helped spark a hasty attack from Tennessee that raged against Missouri, accumulating over 400 yards on the ground.

Tennessee was 54th at the start of the week, while Missouri was ranked 64th. Thefts now hold the 32nd classified offense in the country, according to the REIT. Defense ranks 29th in efficiency according to updated REIT numbers – a ranking that would have shocked anyone if you had told them just a few weeks ago. Josh Heupel’s progress on offense is easy to see, but Tim Banks has done an outstanding job on defense as well.

A notable mention here – Tennessee holds the second toughest schedule remaining, so those numbers might be a bit inflated from where they will end. Games against Alabama and Georgia will certainly hurt, while Ole Miss and Kentucky present big challenges as well. That’s why doing business against South Carolina (65th on the REIT) this weekend is so important. Clint will elaborate on this in Friday’s post.

So we have five games with Josh Heupel and Tennessee are 3-2, pretty much exactly where most thought they would be. Losing the Pittsburgh game hurts more by the day, but those are just a few moments that you are going to experience in your first year on a shortlist.

At this point, it’s hard to find too many complaints. Missed opportunities against Pitt and Florida always stand out, but the rebound moment against Missouri gives us some confidence to move forward.

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