Over the last five seasons, the Volunteers have out recruited the Wolfpack by a long shot.
Here are the last five class rankings for Tennessee and NC State according to Rivals:
The Vols average ranking over the last five classes is 16.8 while the Pack has ranked 51.2. The gap grows when you look at just the last four classes to 12th and 56th.
But not every class is going to contribute the same amount to each team. If a program has a lot of 5th year seniors playing they better be on the line of scrimmage or at QB or your program lacks talent.
Conversely, if you have a lot of true freshman playing they better not be on the offensive/defensive line or QB.
So I weighted each class as follows to account for about how much each class contributes. Obviously this is going to differ for each program but generally the more Seniors and Juniors you have the better you are going to be.
Using a weighted average, Tennessee's talent advantage blows NC State away. The 2008 class for the Wolfpack was their best in the last five ranked 31st; 2010 was close at 34th. Meanwhile, UT has improved from 2008 when they ranked 35th, to have four straight classes in the top 20 and two in the top 10.
Tennessee is favored by 3.5 points. Their talent would suggest a lot more than that.
If Derek Dooley loses tonight to a significantly lesser talented team (after losing to another lesser team in Kentucky last season) he should go ahead and polish his resume.