Tennessee hasn’t made it to a bowl game in back-to-back seasons, but one prominent media outlet is predicting the Vols to earn a berth in the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Athlon Sports released their early 2019 bowl projections for the college football postseason, and they have Tennessee going bowling against a team they played just three seasons ago. Athlon’s group of writers predicts the Vols will earn a spot in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina and will take on Virginia Tech on December 31st.
Tennessee has never played in the Belk Bowl, though they’ve played in Bank of America Stadium before. The Vols opened the 2018 season in Charlotte when they took on West Virginia and were summarily drubbed by a score of 40-14. Though the Vols have never played in the Belk Bowl, they’ve faced off against Virginia Tech before. The Vols and Hokies last played in the Battle at Bristol in 2016, and Tennessee ran away with that game at Bristol Motor Speedway by a score of 45-24.
The two schools haven’t played since then, but a meeting in the Belk Bowl would mark the 10th all-time contest between the two schools. Tennessee is 6-3 against the Hokies, including a 1-1 mark against Virginia Tech in bowl games.
The Vols haven’t been to a bowl game since they beat Nebraska in the Music City Bowl in Nashville at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Tennessee went 4-8 and 0-8 in SEC play in 2017 and stumbled to a 5-7 mark in Jeremy Pruitt’s first year as head coach in 2018.
Athlon isn’t the only well-known media outlet to project the Vols to get back to postseason play in 2019, though. Sporting News also has faith that Tennessee will at least go 6-6 and earn a bowl berth.
All in all, Athlon Sports projects that 10 SEC teams will earn berths to bowl games in 2019, including the Vols. The only SEC schools not projected to make it to a bowl game by Athlon are Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Missouri (because of likely NCAA sanctions).
Athlon Sports predicts two SEC teams — Florida and LSU — will earn berths in New Year’s Six bowls, and two SEC squads will make it to the College Football Playoff. Athlon projects Georgia and Alabama to earn spots in the playoff, and they predict that Alabama and Clemson will face-off for the national championship for the fourth time in the last five years.
Here’s where Athlon has the other SEC schools projected in bowl games in 2019:
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27 – Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State
Music City Bowl, Dec. 30 – Kentucky vs. Miami
Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1 – Texas A&M vs. Nebraska
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 – Auburn vs. Penn State
Gator Bowl, Jan. 2 – South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
Orange Bowl, Dec. 30 (New Year’s Six Bowl) – Florida vs. Syracuse
Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1 (New Year’s Six Bowl) – LSU vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 28 (College Football Playoff Semifinal) – Georgia vs. Clemson
Peach Bowl, Dec. 28 (College Football Playoff Semifinal) – Alabama vs. Michigan
National Championship, Jan. 13 – Alabama vs. Clemson