If Stewart Mandel of sportsillustrated.com knows his stuff, the SEC will be even tougher than usual this season. He lists seven SEC programs among the top 25 in his college football spring power ratings.
Moreover, Mandel believes two of the top three teams hail from the SEC.
His top five consists of Southern Cal at No. 1, LSU at No. 2, Florida at No. 3, West Virginia at No. 4 and Louisville at No. 5.
Arkansas checks in at No. 13, followed by Auburn (16), Tennessee (17), Georgia (19) and South Carolina (24).
Here's what Mandel has to say about Tennessee in explaining the Vols' No. 17 ranking:
Key returnees: QB Erik Ainge, RBs LaMarcus Coker, DE Xavier Mitchell, LB Jerod Mayo, S Jonathan Hefney
Spring star: S Jarod Parrish. The career backup picked off four passes in the Vols' last two scrimmages and will likely take the starting spot vacated by academic washout Demetrice Morley.
Spring recap: Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe began the spring by installing a surprise no-huddle offense, but Ainge injured his knee and the young receiving corps struggled. Coker saw time as a Reggie Bush-type receiver. The Vols' front seven looked solid, but the secondary has questions.