College football SP+ rankings after Week 7

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

It's been 21 years since Tennessee finished in the AP top five. It had almost been that long since the Vols had beaten Alabama, too, but Saturday's thrilling 52-49 win in Knoxville is allowing UT fans to dream big again. The advanced stats, meanwhile, are backing up the dreams.

In this week's SP+ rankings, the Vols jumped to fifth. If they finish there, it would be their best ranking since 1999. This being a predictive ranking and not a measure of résumés, they are still behind Bama overall (though the gap is closing quickly). But considering they are now given at least 71% win probability in five of their final six regular-season games, the odds of a huge season -- first 10-win season since 2007? first 11-win season since 2001? first 12-win season since 1998? -- are only increasing.

Below are this week's SP+ rankings. What is SP+? In a single sentence, it's a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. I created the system at Football Outsiders in 2008, and as my experience with both college football and its stats has grown, I have made quite a few tweaks to the system.

SP+ is indeed intended to be predictive and forward-facing. It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling -- no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you're lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you're strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.