Best location: While I do think that Nashville would be an ideal spot for numerous reasons, I just don’t like the fact that Tennessee could potentially play back-to-back-to-back games in the Music City. I’m normally on board with Daniel for things like this, but three straight games is too much when there’s an opportunity to play in front of recruits elsewhere. That’s why I’m going to have to side with the Belk Bowl. It’s still fairly close to Knoxville, but it’s a city that most Vol fans probably don’t get to see that much and it really is a cool place. The SEC Network is headquartered there – so, ummm….there’s that – but they really do have a lot of cool attractions and places to eat, shop, spend an afternoon…etc. North Carolina is also a critical state in recruiting, so it would be a great opportunity for some Tarheel State prospects to be able to catch a game featuring the Vols in their back yard. Hear me say that I love Nashville – I even made it my home for a period of time – but let’s spread our wings a little bit.
Best matchup: Unlike most people, I truly don’t care about how “sexy” a bowl matchup appears to be on paper. The only thing that matters to me is whether or not the Vols win the game. The best matchup for my scenario would be NC State in the Belk Bowl. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what NC State accomplished this season, you aren’t alone. They had a very underwhelming season and really struggled against the good teams on their schedule. They finished 7-5 with wins over Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida, Presbyterian, Syracuse, Wake Forrest and North Carolina – the biggest win coming in the season finale against the Tarheels. I just don’t think that the Wolfpack would present the type of matchup problems in certain areas that teams like Texas, Notre Dame or Louisville would. 7-6 just sounds so much better than 6-7, and a matchup against NC State is Tennessee’s best chance of getting there.
Best guess: It’s looking more and more like the Vols are headed to Memphis with a potential matchup against Texas in the Liberty Bowl. This is the absolute last destination and opponent that I would have chosen for Tennessee, so, naturally, this is where I expect them to end up. I have always hoped for a UT vs. UT matchup in the postseason…but not in the Liberty Bowl. This game just won’t have the spice that it should because of where the two teams are at this point in their respective rebuilding processes. The game will likely be an ugly one with both teams disappointed at the final whistle. But, hey, at least the food will be good.