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): Citrus Bowl vs. Iowa
ESPN (Schlabach): Orange Bowl vs. Northwestern
CBS: (Palm): Cotton Bowl vs. Houston
SBNation (Kirk): Orange Bowl vs. Louisville
RTI’s take: Virtually anything remains on the table for Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC) as the Vols begin to turn their attention to the backstretch of the schedule.
Tennessee’s playoff chances took a massive blow on Saturday, not just because the Vols lost to Alabama, but also because of the way the Tide took care of business. If the Vols could run the table, including a possible rematch with Alabama in Atlanta, anything is possible, but a two-loss team has yet to make the playoffs. UT would be a tough sell with a 39-point loss on its resume.
While that’s unlikely to materialize, UT remains in decent shape for a potential New Year’s Six Bowl (Cotton, Orange and Sugar are all potentially in play this year for UT). Three of the four projections we listed have the Vols landing in one of those. If UT does run the table in the regular season, there’s a decent chance that it happens. If the Vols were to win the SEC, but not make the playoffs, they would be guaranteed a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
The Citrus Bowl, which has the top pick of any SEC team not in the playoffs or a New Year’s Six Bowl, remains a strong possibility at this point as well. A regular season 10-2, or possibly even a 9-3, UT team would be an attractive draw for the Citrus. Remember, it gets to choose who it wants (among bowl-eligible teams) and isn’t bound to win-loss records or standings.
A couple losses, however, could quickly knock UT out of New Year’s Six consideration, and possibly land the Vols back in the familiar spot of being placed in one of the Group of Six bowls (Outback, TaxSlayer, Belk, Music City, Liberty, Texas). The SEC has final say in these assignments, so anything could go.