Tennessee Set to Face Former National Champion in Latest Bowl Projections

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    Tennessee Bowl

    The Tennessee Volunteers have a wide range of projected bowl opponents heading into the final third of the season. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

    After each college football weekend, the latest round of bowl predictions make their way online, often flying underneath the radar – especially early in the season. However, even with the Vols on their first two-game losing streak of the year, the Vols still have some fascinating projections with one-third of the season remaining.

    In total, three of the four outlets that will be mentioned lists Tennessee in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Additionally, four of the five analysts that were looked at also went with a Duke’s Mayo Bowl projection. Although, there is one opponent that stands out among the rest.

    Currently, CBS Sports is projecting Tennessee to go to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl for a matchup with Dabo Swinney and former National Champion Clemson.

    The Clemson Tigers (4-3, 3-2 ACC) have been arguably the biggest disappointment in college football this year. The Tigers were the preseason third-ranked team, and while top overall NFL pick Trevor Lawrence wasn’t in the building anymore, expectations were still lofty. However, the Tigers have had a forgettable 2021 season, with three losses under their belt heading into Week 9. A national champion just three years ago, Clemson now has losses to Georgia, North Carolina State, and Pittsburgh on the year.

    Speaking of Pittsburgh, the Panthers are one of the Vols’ four losses through eight games on the year. In addition, the Panthers are the Vols’ only non-conference loss on the year. Tennessee also fell to Florida, Ole Miss, and Alabama, but took down Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech, Missouri, and South Carolina along the way.

    Tennessee Bowl

    Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

    Similarly, both ESPN analysts have Tennessee in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, but against different opponents. Kyle Bonagura has Tennessee squaring off against Boston College. Meanwhile, Mark Schlabach has the Vols facing off against North Carolina.

    The Duke’s Mayo Bowl, which will be celebrating its 20th year anniversary this season, will take place on Dec. 30. The game, featuring one SEC team and one ACC team, will take place just before noon at 11:30 a.m. ET. Additionally, the game will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

    Schlabach wasn’t the only analyst to select the Tar Heels as Tennessee’s opponent though. Yahoo Sports also has the Vols’ taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, which seems like a consistent landing spot for Tennessee.

    Lastly, out of the four that were looked at, 247 Sports was the only outlet that had Tennessee in a spot other than North Carolina. 247’s Brad Crawford currently has Tennessee in the Birmingham Bowl facing off against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Currently, the UAB Blazers (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) are sitting at third overall in the Conference USA West standings with losses to Georgia, Liberty, and Rice.

    Tennessee will return to the field in Week 10 as they look to secure a bowl bid in their final four games. The Vols will need two wins to reach bowl eligibility, with Kentucky, Georgia, South Alabama, and Vanderbilt remaining on the schedule.

    With four games remaining, there’s still a large range of projected opponents for Tennessee, from Clemson to UAB. However, in order for the Vols to even play past game number 12, Tennessee will still need to find two more wins on the year.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.