A month ago, Tennessee was given just a five percent chance of making it to a bowl game according to the projections at TeamRankings.com. Now, with the Vols reeling off back-to-back wins and with their November schedule looking much easier than the first couple months, Tennessee has better than a 50/50 chance of earning a postseason berth.
The Vols’ rise in bowl projections started with their upset victory over Mississippi State at home back on October 12th. That win gave Tennessee their first win over an FBS team in 2019, and it seemed to change the trajectory of the Vols’ 2019 season.
Since then, Tennessee has hung tight with Alabama (till a fourth quarter fumble), beaten South Carolina soundly, and led from start to finish against UAB. The Vols have now won two-straight games for the first time since early October of last year, and they’re winners of three of their last four games.
Tennessee’s win over UAB gave the Vols four wins on the season. UT needs to win just two of their remaining three games to get bowl eligible, and the odds now seem slightly in the Vols’ favor to do so.
According to TeamRankings.com, Tennessee now has a 54.1 percent chance of making a bowl game this season. When you realize their projections gave the Vols just a five percent shot of getting to a bowl game a month ago, that kind of climb is pretty remarkable.
A month ago, TeamRankings.com had the Vols’ “most likely” record projection as 3-9 for this season. Now? That same analytical formula has Tennessee’s “most likely” outcome set at 6-6 with a 41.1 percent probability. The Vols have a 40.3 percent chance of going 5-7 according to their metrics, and UT has a 12.9 percent shot at winning out and going 7-5 in the regular season.
A month ago, the Vols were given a less than four percent chance of getting to 7-5 this season.
The Team Rankings formula has the Vols as heavy favorites against Vanderbilt, giving UT an 89.7 percent shot at beating the Commodores. Tennessee is a slight underdog to Kentucky with a 41.2 percent change of winning, and they’re only given a 29.9 percent chance of defeating Missouri.
But that’s just one metric. What about ESPN’s Football Power Index?
The FPI now has Tennessee as the No. 37 team in their rankings, and their formula gives the Vols a 13.4 percent chance of winning out and finishing 7-5. Tennessee has a 42.7 percent chance to beat Kentucky this upcoming weekend, and the FPI gives the Vols a 37.2 percent shot at defeating Missouri on the road. The FPI has the Vols as big favorites over Vanderbilt as well, giving the Vols 87.2 percent odds to beat the Commodores.
According to the FPI, Tennessee’s projected win/loss record at the end of the season is 5.7-6.3, meaning the FPI views the Vols’ chances of finishing 6-6 as slightly more likely than their chances of finishing 5-7.
Most sites haven’t updated their bowl projects as of yet, but one publication has the Vols in their most recent update.
Sporting News released their updated college football bowl predictions on Sunday, and Tennessee was included in the list. Sporting News has the Vols projected to play Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on December 31st.
Tennessee can’t cruise to bowl eligibility this season, as their contests against Kentucky and Missouri will be anything but easy. In fact, the Vols will likely be underdogs in both games, and they’re already a slight road underdog to Kentucky ahead of their match-up with the Wildcats this upcoming weekend. But it’s clear that Tennessee’s play over the last four weeks has been drastically different than it was the first month of the season, and the Vols now look more like a bowl team than they did at the end of September.
A month ago, Tennessee seemed destined to have one of the worst seasons in program history. Now, the Vols are favored by several projections to actually make it to a bowl game for the first time since 2016.