We’re keeping regular tabs on the updated bowl projections for the Vols and we’ll throw in our own thoughts as the rest of the season unfolds:
ESPN (McMurphy): Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern
ESPN (Schlabach): Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern
CBS: (Palm): Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern
SBNation (Kirk): Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern
RTI’s take: As you can clearly see, there’s a consensus among the national outlets we’ve been checking for bowl projections that Tennessee will face Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. While that might not be a marquee opponent per se, that’s still a very solid brand-name bowl in Florida on Jan. 1. The Vols would certainly take that in a heartbeat, and to parlay two season with a combined 14-10 record into back-to-back post-New Year trips to the Sunshine State would be a testament to the interest of the fanbase.
We certainly don’t disagree with those projections and think the Outback Bowl is the most likely landing spot at this point. We have also heard the Citrus Bowl had some level of interest in UT, though Florida may end up being the better fit there assuming the Gators fall to Alabama in the SEC Championship. The Belk and Music City Bowls are two others that could be in play as well. If Alabama goes to the playoffs, Ole Miss lands in the Sugar Bowl and Florida goes to the Citrus, UT would be in a group most likely with LSU, Georgia, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Texas A&M – all teams with between seven and nine wins – that the SEC will have the ultimate determination where they go in the Pool of Six bowls (TaxSlayer, Outback, Liberty, Music City, Texas, Belk).
Arkansas to the Liberty Bowl makes a lot of geographical sense. A&M to the Texas Bowl makes sense as well. The TaxSlayer Bowl can virtually be ruled out because UT was there last year and they don’t like to send teams the same place twice in a row when possible. So it continues to look like Music City, Belk or Outback with those bowls and the schools themselves pitching what they want. LSU or Georgia make sense for the TaxSlayer. That would leave one of those teams, Mississippi State and UT as the three schools to distribute to the Belk, Music City and Outback Bowls if everything else goes as it looks like it might.