CFP chair: Vols’ loss to Gamecocks ‘really weighed with the committee’

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Tennessee junior receiver Jalin Hyatt was named Tuesday among the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award.

Tennessee is No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, but it's not a lucky No. 7.

The Volunteers completed a 10-2 regular season with Saturday night's 56-0 victory at Vanderbilt, matching the 10-2 mark Alabama solidified with its 49-27 thumping of Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but the Crimson Tide earned the No. 6 spot behind a top five of Georgia, Michigan, TCU, Southern California and Ohio State.

Georgia and Michigan are expected to make the CFP's four-team field regardless of their outcomes at this weekend's Southeastern Conference and Big Ten championship games, respectably, but losses by TCU against Kansas State in Saturday's Big 12 championship contest and by USC against Utah in Friday night's Pac-12 title tilt could result in Ohio State or Alabama -- or both -- moving into the top four.

That obviously would leave Tennessee on the outside despite its 52-49 win over the Crimson Tide on Oct. 15.

CFP committee chair and North Carolina State athletic director Boo Corrigan said Tuesday night on a conference call that it was "very much debated" where to rank Alabama and Tennessee.

"The value of head-to-head is certainly one of the criteria that we look at, but we're looking at a full body of work," Corrigan said. "You look at the two losses by Alabama, including one on the last-second field goal to Tennessee, and somewhere in there you've got to measure the (63-38) loss that Tennessee had to South Carolina. As we went through that, that was part of the determination as to why we had Alabama ahead of Tennessee.

"That loss against South Carolina really weighed with the committee."

Penn State, Clemson and Kansas State followed the Vols to round out the top 10. There are six SEC teams in the CFP's top 25, with LSU 14th, South Carolina 19th and Mississippi State 24th.

There was certainly some confusion Tuesday night, as Corrigan was asked on ESPN if nothing would change between now and Sunday's final rankings with the order of teams who are not playing in their conference championships, such as Ohio State, Alabama and Tennessee. Corrigan responded, "Correct," but he reversed course on the conference call.

"I apologize if there is any confusion on that," he said. "That's not necessarily the case, and I apologize if there is confusion."

Corrigan was then asked whether Ohio State and Alabama were the only teams that could move into the top four should upsets occur -- and if Tennessee was the first team out of that discussion -- but he sidestepped that question.

"I think that's the excitement of what we're going to see this weekend," Corrigan said. "We're going to see how it plays out and make our decisions next week and be back on a phone call explaining them."

Hooker a finalist

Sixth-year senior quarterback Hendon Hooker was named Tuesday among the three finalists for the Maxwell Award, becoming the first Maxwell finalist for the Vols since Peyton Manning earned the honor in 1997.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams are the two other finalists for the award that goes to college football's top player regardless of position.

Hooker, who was unable to play at Vandy due to a torn left anterior cruciate ligament suffered the week before at South Carolina, is not a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award as college football's top quarterback, with Stroud, Williams and TCU's Max Duggan comprising that trio.

Hyatt a finalist

Jalin Hyatt on Tuesday became Tennessee's first finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which is presented every year to college football's top receiver.

The 6-foot, 180-pound junior from Dutch Fork High in Irmo, South Carolina, amassed 67 catches for 1,267 yards (18.9 yards per reception) and 15 touchdowns during the regular season. Hyatt is tied for the national lead in scoring receptions, with his 1,267 yards ranking third and his 105.6 yards per game ranking fourth.

Wright to Mobile

Senior right tackle Darnell Wright received an invitation Tuesday to the Senior Bowl, which will take place Saturday, Feb. 4, in Mobile, Alabama.

Wright played 829 snaps during the regular season without allowing a sack, according to Pro Football Focus, and the 6-foot-6, 335-pounder from Huntington, West Virginia, was named as the SEC's offensive lineman of the week following wins over Alabama and Kentucky.

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