The Crimson Tide were one of five unbeaten teams to fall during a wild weekend and dropped three places to No. 6 in the AP Top 25. Alabama swapped places with the Volunteers after losing to them 52-49 on a field goal as time expired Saturday.
Georgia remained No. 1 and received 31 first-place votes, while Ohio State had 17 first-place votes.
The Volunteers received 15 first-place votes and have their best ranking since starting the 2005 season at No. 3. The last time Tennessee was ranked this high in the second half of the season was 2001, reaching the top 10 in late October and heading into the SEC championship at No. 2.
The Crimson Tide had their string of 40 straight appearances in the top five snapped. It was the longest such active streak in the country.
Georgia now has the longest run of top-five appearances with 24.
The Tide's latest top-five run is only the third longest of the Saban era. Their 68 straight top-five appearances from 2015 to 2019 is the AP poll record, and a string of 48 consecutive top-five rankings from 2011 to 2013 is tied for fourth.
EXPLAIN YOUR VOTE
Tennessee made a case to be the No. 1 team in the country, and it swayed some voters.
"I voted Tennessee No. 1 because the Vols' strength of schedule is far superior to UGA and Ohio State," said Ron Counts of the Idaho Statesman in Boise.
For comparison, Georgia has played just one team (Oregon) that has been ranked at any point this season. Ohio State has played three, though only one was ranked at the time (Notre Dame) and all those opponents have at least three losses.
Plus, beating Alabama doesn't happen often and holds a lot of weight with voters. No team this season has beaten a team with a better ranking at the time the game was played than Tennessee.
"It was a tough call between Tennessee and Georgia for No. 1," said Kellis Robinett of The Wichita (Kansas) Eagle. "I have been voting the Bulldogs ahead of everyone else for several weeks, mostly because their blowout victory over Oregon has aged like a fine wine. But I think beating Alabama is slightly more impressive."
So why only No. 3 for Tennessee?
The ranked-at-the-time argument falls flat for some voters, who were less impressed with victories against Florida and Pitt and give Georgia and Ohio State credit for being more dominant overall.
"I've been high on Tennessee all year, but I don't think ranking them No. 3 is any kind of snub this week," said Mike Barber of the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch.
• No. 22 North Carolina is ranked for the first time this season.
• No. 25 Tulane is this week's breakthrough team. The Green Wave (6-1) are ranked for the first time since 1998, when quarterback Shaun King led them to an unbeaten season and No. 7 in the final Top 25.
• Kansas lost two straight games after snapping a poll drought of 13 years and is unranked again.
SEC - 6 (Nos. 1, 3, 6, 7, 19, 24)
ACC - 5 (Nos. 5, 13, 14, 22, 23)
Big 12 - 4 (Nos. 8, 11, 17, 20)
Big Ten - 4 (No. 2, 4, 16, 18)
Pac-12 - 4 (Nos. 9, 10, 12, 15)
American - 2 (Nos. 21, 25)
RANKED vs. RANKED
After six games matching ranked teams this past weekend, five more are on tap, including the first top-10 matchup in the Pac-12 since the 2016 conference championship game (No. 4 Washington and No. 9 Colorado).