Why the College Football Playoff ranked Tennessee Vols behind Alabama

Tennessee football's blowout loss at South Carolina is an anchor to UT's ranking in the College Football Playoff, committee chair Boo Corrigan said Tuesday.

Corrigan said the 25-point loss "really weighed" with the committee as it debated the bodies of work between Tennessee and Alabama, which ranked a spot ahead of the Vols despite a head-to-head loss.

“The outlier would be the Tennessee loss to South Carolina as opposed to two close losses by Alabama," Corrigan said. "That was a determining factor there.”

Tennessee ranked No. 7 in the penultimate rankings, moving up three spots after its win at Vanderbilt. Alabama is No. 6 after the slots were "very much debated amongst the committee," Corrigan said. Both teams finished the regular season 10-2, while the Vols hold an edge on Alabama after beating the Crimson Tide 52-49 on Oct. 15 on a 40-yard Chase McGrath field goal as time expired.

Corrigan said the "value of head to head is certainly one of the criteria that we look at," but repeatedly stressed the importance of a "full body of work."

"You need to take everything in account," Corrigan said. "It certainly is part of what we do. It is one of the factors not the only factor. We are trying to get the entire body of work.”

Tennessee has wins against Alabama and No. 14 LSU, which it walloped 40-13 on Oct. 8 in Baton Rouge. UT was handled by No. 1 Georgia in a 27-13 loss on Nov. 5, then was crushed 63-38 by No. 19 South Carolina on Nov. 19.

Alabama lost to Tennessee, then lost 32-31 to LSU in overtime on Nov. 5. The Crimson Tide beat No. 20 Texas 20-19 in Week 2 and dominated No. 24 Mississippi State 30-6.

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Corrigan again noted Tennessee's loss to South Carolina "was part of the determination to have Alabama ahead of Tennessee.”

He also said he did not know if Tennessee's ranking would be different if Hendon Hooker was not injured. The Vols quarterback suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee late against South Carolina. Corrigan suggested the timing of Hooker's injury didn't matter, as it did not affect the outcome at South Carolina. Tennessee was already down 18 at South Carolina when Hooker was injured.

The Vols annihilated Vanderbilt 56-0 on Saturday with Hooker on the sideline and Joe Milton starting at QB.

“I think it was a good win by a football team," Corrigan said. "As we looked at it, there is a lot of respect for Tennessee in the room, which is why they ended up ranked where they were.”

The Sugar Bowl takes the highest-ranked SEC team that does not make the College Football Playoff, which is Alabama as the rankings stand entering conference championship Saturday.

The Orange Bowl has its pick of the remaining highest-ranked team among the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame. That could be Tennessee or potentially Ohio State if the Buckeyes do not land in the Rose Bowl. UT also could play in the Cotton Bowl as an at-large selection.

LSU fell from No. 5 to No. 14 following its 38-23 loss to Texas A&M in its regular-season finale. The Tigers face Georgia in the SEC championship game Saturday.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at michael.wilson@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Why Tennessee football is ranked behind Alabama in CFP rankings