Tennessee is putting all of its time and effort into preparing for Missouri this weekend and not looking ahead to anything past that. Luckily, we at RTI don’t have have to be so responsible. The Vols got win No. 5 against Kentucky and regardless of the outcome against Missouri this weekend, Tennessee has a very strong chance to return to the postseason for the first time since 2010 because lowly Vanderbilt still remains on the schedule. There are no givens in the SEC, but that’s about as close as you’re going to get.
With that in mind, plus the frozen temperatures in Knoxville this week, we’re thinking about bowl possibilities and which ones would be fun to see.
First, I’ll define realistic. The Vols, in all likelihood, will be going to either one of the group of six mid-tier bowls this year (TaxSlayer, Belk, Music City, Liberty, Texas and Outback) or, especially if they finish 6-6, could go to one of the ones below that – the Independence or Birmingham Bowl.
The process for bowl selection is different in the SEC this year. The league itself will consult with the bowl games and various universities in play to match six teams with those first six bowls listed. After that, the Birmingham Bowl has the first pick, followed by the Independence, if enough bowl-eligible teams are there from the SEC. For this season at least, Tennessee doesn’t need to worry about how the league champion/playoffs work in terms of the bowl selection.
All that to say, I’m willing to classify any of the eight mentioned bowls as realistic for Tennessee. The Vols likely don’t end up in Texas and almost definitely don’t fall all the way to Independence, but we’ll keep them all on the table. A realistic opponent is anybody who is bowl eligible or has a good chance to make it, but isn’t so high in their league standings that they’ll be heading for the playoffs or other better options. With all that in mind, and factoring in things like location, opponent quality and history, here are 10 realistic bowl matchups involving the Vols that we’d love to see: