After Tennessee suffered a blowout 50-17 loss to Missouri for the second straight year, the Vols fell out of a lot of bowl projections by many national outlets. But some sites still have Tennessee in their projections heading into a pivotal regular season finale against Vanderbilt.
The Vols (5-6, 2-5 SEC) and Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 SEC) will be facing off essentially in a “play-in game” for the postseason this Saturday. A win would give either team an automatic berth into a bowl game, but a loss would effectively eliminate either school from the postseason. The only way a 5-7 Tennessee or Vanderbilt team could get into a bowl game would be if not enough teams get to that six-win threshold and either schools’ APR score is high enough to get them qualified.
But barring that, it’s win or go home on Saturday for Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Some national media outlets believe the Vols will get the job done against the Commodores and will make it to a bowl game. And both the sites that have Tennessee in the postseason have them playing in different bowls.
SB Nation’s bowl projections have the Vols returning to where they started the season — Charlotte. Their predictions have Tennessee playing in the Belk Bowl on December 29th, and they project the Vols to play Georgia Tech, the team they opened up their 2017 season against.
The Orlando Sentinel also has Tennessee making a bowl game, but they have them going west instead of east. Those projections have the Vols earning a berth into the Liberty Bowl on December 31st, and they project Tennessee to face-off against Texas Tech. The Vols and Red Raiders haven’t played each other since 1997, a 52-17 win for Tennessee.
Vanderbilt has opened as a 3.5-point favorite over Tennessee for their game in Nashville this weekend, and the Vols have just a 38.7 percent chance of defeating the Commodores this Saturday according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. This year marks the first time since 2012 that Vanderbilt has been a favorite over Tennessee, and the 3.5-point margin is the largest spread in favor of Vanderbilt in the modern betting era.
Tennessee has lost two straight games to Vanderbilt and have failed to beat the Commodores in four of their last six meetings. But the last time the Vols played Vanderbilt with a bowl berth on the line in the last game of the regular season, Tennessee emerged victorious. A 5-6 Tennessee team defeated Vanderbilt 24-17 in Nashville to end the 2014 regular season. The Vols would earn a bid to the TaxSlayer Bowl that season and defeated Iowa 45-28.
The Vols and Commodores will kick-off at 4 PM Eastern on Saturday, November 24th in Vanderbilt Stadium.