So far this offseaosn, the preseason bowl projections for the Vols haven’t been too positive. Two different publications have had the Vols projected to play in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis after the 2017 season, though both have Tennessee playing different opponents.
The latest bowl projection, however, has the Vols playing in a slightly better bowl, at least when it comes to national perception.
According to Athlon Sports, the Vols will meet Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl after the 2017 regular season concludes. The Vols recently made a trip to Tampa, Florida to play in the Outback Bowl after the 2015 season when they blew out Northwestern 45-6.
Wisconsin and Tennessee have played each other in the postseason before. In fact, the last time these two teams met was in the Outback Bowl. The Vols defeated the Badgers 21-17 on January 1st, 2008 to cap off a 10-win 2007 season.
For the Vols to make it to the Outback Bowl this season, they would need to finish with a record good enough for anywhere between third or eighth in the SEC. With the way the bowl tie-ins work for the SEC, if no SEC team makes it to the playoffs, the top-ranked SEC team is selected for the Sugar Bowl. If an SEC team makes it to the playoffs, the next highest-ranked SEC team would represent the conference in the Sugar Bowl. The Orange Bowl then has a choice between a Big Ten team, an SEC team, or Notre Dame to face an ACC school.
After the Sugar and Orange Bowls have their pick, the Citrus claims the next highest-rated SEC team. Then it’s a free-for-all between the Outback, Taxslayer, Music City, Liberty, and Belk Bowls. The Birmingham Bowl, Texas, and Independence Bowls all have SEC tie-ins as well.
The Vols are 3-1 all-time in the Outback Bowl. They won their first ever game in 1992 (then called the Hall of Fame Bowl) by defeating Boston College 38-23. Tennessee then lost their first appearance in the actual Outback Bowl after the 2006 season when Penn State handed them a 20-10 defeat. Tennessee has won both appearances since, defeating the aforementioned Badgers in 2007 and Northwestern in 2015.
Florida defeated Iowa 30-3 in last year’s Outback Bowl. The SEC has won four of the last five Outback Bowls and nine of the last 13. The SEC is 15-11 all-time in the Outback Bowl.