Tennessee Football’s blowout loss in South Carolina is an anchor for UT’s placement in the college football playoffs, committee chairman Boo Corrigan said Tuesday.
Corrigan said the 25-point loss “really weighed down” the committee as it debated the work packages between Tennessee and Alabama, which ranked a spot ahead of the Vols despite a neck-and-neck loss.
“The outlier would be Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina versus two close losses to Alabama,” Corrigan said. “That was a decisive factor there.”
Tennessee ranked 7th in the penultimate rankings and moved up three places after winning at Vanderbilt. Alabama is #6 after slots “have been discussed a great deal on the committee,” Corrigan said. Both teams finished the regular season 10-2, while the Vols have an advantage over Alabama after defeating the Crimson Tide 52-49 on Oct. 15 with a 40-yard field goal from Chase McGrath after time was up had.
Corrigan said “head-to-head value is certainly one of the criteria we look at,” but repeatedly stressed the importance of “complete work.”
“You have to consider everything,” Corrigan said. “It’s certainly part of our job. It’s one of the factors, not the only factor. We try to get all the work.”
Tennessee has won against Alabama and No. 14 LSU, which it defeated 40-13 on Oct. 8 in Baton Rouge. UT was treated to a 27-13 loss by No. 1 Georgia on November 5 and was defeated 63-38 by No. 19 South Carolina on November 19.
Alabama lost to Tennessee, then lost 32-31 in overtime to LSU on November 5. The Crimson Tide defeated No. 20 Texas 20-19 in Week 2 and dominated No. 24 Mississippi State 30-6.
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Corrigan again noted that Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina “was part of the determination to have Alabama ahead of Tennessee.”
He also said he didn’t know if Tennessee’s placement would be different if Hendon Hooker wasn’t injured. The Vols quarterback suffered a cruciate ligament tear in his left knee at the end of the season against South Carolina. Corrigan suggested that the timing of Hooker’s injury didn’t matter because it didn’t affect the South Carolina outcome. Tennessee was 18 in South Carolina when Hooker was injured.
The Vols defeated Vanderbilt 56-0 on Saturday, with Hooker on the touchline and Joe Milton starting in QB.
“I think it was a good win for a football team,” Corrigan said. “From our perspective, there’s a lot of respect for Tennessee in the room, which is why they ended up being placed where they were.”
The Sugar Bowl takes the highest-ranked SEC team not to make the college football playoffs, Alabama, as the rankings enter the conference championship on Saturday.
The Orange Bowl has a choice between the remaining top-ranked team from the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame. That could be Tennessee or possibly Ohio State if the Buckeyes don’t end up in the Rose Bowl. UT could also play as an at-large selection in the Cotton Bowl.
LSU fell from 5th to 14th after losing to Texas A&M 38-23 in the regular-season finals. The Tigers face Georgia in Saturday’s SEC championship game.
Mike Wilson reports on the University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @By Mike Wilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to everything.