Tennessee is putting all of its time and effort into preparing for Vanderbilt 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 two weeks ago and after falling to Missouri last weekend, the Vols have one more chance against Vanderbilt in Nashville this weekend to become bowl eligible.
Fortunately for Tennessee, that last chance involves being a 14.5-point favorite over a Vandy team that hasn’t won an SEC game this year and has lost by an average of about 28 points per game in SEC play.
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 could go to one of the ones below that – the Independence or Birmingham Bowl. There are other scenarios that could play out as well, but as of now, we see the Vols being in one of those eight bowls.
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 Bowl. 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. 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: