We’re still just over three months away from the start of the 2018 college football season, but that’s not stopping some sites from putting out very early bowl predictions. And one such site believes the Vols will get enough wins to be bowl eligible in Jeremy Pruitt’s first year as head coach.
Pete Fiutak of College Football News put out his spring bowl projections, and he believes the Vols will get at least six wins this upcoming season and will make it to a bowl game. He predicts Tennessee will be in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and will take on Oklahoma State out of the Big 12.
Tennessee has played in the Liberty Bowl three times previously and has won all three appearances, but they haven’t played in that bowl game since 1986. The Vols beat Arkansas 14-13 in 1971, they defeated Maryland 7-3 in 1974, and they beat Minnesota 21-14 in 1986. Oklahoma State has never appeared in the Liberty Bowl.
The Vols have only faced off against Oklahoma State one time in school history, and that came back on September 30th, 1995. The No. 12 Volunteers hosted Oklahoma State in that match-up, and Tennessee throttled the Cowboys 31-0.
Tennessee is coming off their worst season in program history last year when they went 4-8 and 0-8 in SEC play. Last season marked the fifth time in the last 10 seasons that the Vols failed to make it to a bowl game, and it was the sixth time over the last 13 seasons that they failed to do so. Before that, Tennessee had made a bowl game for 16 straight seasons from 1989 to 2004.
But the Vols made a coaching change in the offseason, and they’re now headed up by former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The first-time head coach will have his work cut out for him, though, thanks to a tough schedule and a roster full of question marks.
Oklahoma State, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a bowl game since they went 4-7 in Mike Gundy’s very first season in 2005. Since then, they’ve made a bowl appearance every year. The Cowboys were 10-3 last season, but they’ll be replacing star quarterback Mason Rudolph and their top two leading receivers from last season heading into this year.
The Vols haven’t played a Big 12 opponent in a bowl game since they took on Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl after the 2004 season. The Aggies are now in the SEC, but they were a member of the Big 12 when Tennessee played them that season. The Vols are 2-5 against teams currently in the Big 12 in bowl games.