Giglio: Tennessee is the most important team in the country

jgiglio@newsobserver.comOctober 6, 2013 

  • AP Top 25

    1. Alabama 1

    2. Oregon 2

    3. Clemson 3

    4. Stanford 4

    5. Georgia 5

    6. Ohio State 6

    7. Texas A&M 7

    8. Louisville 8

    9. Florida State 9

    10. Baylor 13

    11. LSU 10

    12. South Carolina 11

    13. Miami 12

    14. Oklahoma 14

    15. UCLA 15

    16. Michigan 16

    17. Washington 17

    18. Florida 18

    19. Texas Tech 21

    20. Northern Illinois 22

    21. Northwestern 19

    22. Notre Dame NR

    23. Fresno State NR

    24. Virginia Tech NR

    25. Auburn NR

    Out: Ole Miss (20), Maryland (23), Arizona State (24), Oklahoma State (25)

Note: Joe Giglio is one of 60 AP voters.

Comparing scores is part of the voting process. It’s not always fair, but there’s no way around it.

If the best teams don’t play each other during the regular season, how else can you compare them without using results against common opponents?

That leads us to Tennessee. The Vols haven’t been a national contender for the better part of 10 years, but they might be the most important team in the country this season.

First-year coach Butch Jones has already taken the Volunteers on the road to No. 2 Oregon (a 59-14 loss), to No. 18 Florida (a 31-17 loss) and faced No. 5 Georgia at home (a 34-31 OT loss).

That makes Oregon look pretty good, doesn’t it?

On the plus side for Oregon, Tennessee was fresh for its matchup with the Ducks on Sept. 14 and the Ducks still boat-raced them.

But let’s be honest here, which team do you think Tennessee was more interested in playing: Georgia or Oregon?

You would have to think the conference opponent at home, right? I know that’s not Oregon’s problem, but it’s a factor.

Then there’s Georgia’s injuries. The Bulldogs didn’t have running back Todd Gurley for Saturday’s road game at Tennessee, and running back Keith Marshall was injured during the game.

Maybe Oregon is that much better than Georgia or Florida, I don’t know, but you can see how it’s not just as simple as comparing scores.

And we’re not done with Tennessee. The Vols face No. 12 South Carolina on Oct. 19 and No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 26. What shape do you think the Vols will be in by the time they get to Tuscaloosa?

By the way, if you’re keeping track, that means Tennessee will play three top 10 teams and five top 20 teams in the span of six games.

Meanwhile, Alabama – from the same conference – has three total ranked teams on its schedule.

Wasn’t conference expansion awesome?

Giglio: jgiglio@newsobserver.com or twitter.com/jwgiglio

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