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ESPN Predicts Playoff and Sugar Bowl Possibilities for Tennessee Football

Tennessee Football
Tennessee Football. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

The No. 3-ranked Tennessee Volunteers are 6-0 to start the season and are as red-hot as anyone in the country.

The Vols have gone from unranked to a top-three team after defeating the likes of Pittsburgh, Florida, LSU, and Alabama – four gorillas that are now finally off of Tennessee’s back.

Preseason expectations, in a sense, have already been surpassed with Tennessee’s undefeated start to the season. While Tennessee still has to put together a strong close over the final six games, the Vols look to be on their way to some top-tier postseason football. And that’s exactly the same line of thinking that ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Kyle Bonagura have.

At the beginning of the week, Schlabach and Bonagura posted their College Football Playoff and bowl projections seven weeks into the college football season.

Schlabach has Tennessee in the College Football Playoff semifinal game in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. The ESPN analyst has Tennessee matching up against Ohio State, with the Buckeyes advancing to the National Championship game.

“Tennessee’s exciting 52-49 upset of Alabama shook up my top four teams again,” Schlabach wrote. “Defending national champion Georgia remains No. 1, after shutting out Vanderbilt 55-0 at home. The Bulldogs surrendered only 10 first downs and 150 yards of offense. Ohio State, which had an open date, moves up to No. 2 after Alabama’s loss. The Volunteers are my No. 3 team after beating the Crimson Tide for the first time in 16 tries. Tennessee is as explosive as anyone on offense, but its defense has plenty of work to do.”

More from RTI: See Tennessee’s National Championship Odds

While Kyle Bonagura didn’t put Tennessee in the playoffs just yet, his reasoning leaves the door open to future possibilities after the Vols’ game against Georgia in early November. Instead of Tennessee, Bonagura has TCU in the final playoff spot, with UCLA as a strong candidate as well.

Both Bonagura and Schlabach are in agreement over Georgia, Ohio State, and Clemson.

Bonagura has Tennessee returning to the Pelican State for a Sugar Bowl appearance against the Texas Longhorns. That game will take place at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve.

“Scoring 52 points against Alabama is a heckuva way to make a statement,” Bonagura wrote about the Vols. “Even though Alabama committed 17 penalties, no one should come away from watching that game thinking Tennessee wouldn’t move the ball at will if the teams played again. The biggest issue now for Tennessee is that it’s in the same division as Georgia. If the Vols beat Georgia, that would put them in an decent spot to reach the playoff even if they went on to lose the SEC title game. Good times in Knoxville.”

Tennessee still has two (with a slight chance at three) Top 25-ranked games remaining on the schedule. The Vols will host Kentucky on Oct. 29 and will travel to Georgia on Nov. 6. Then, in the second to last game of the season, Tennessee will travel to play South Carolina. The unranked Gamecocks received 13 votes in the most recent AP poll, indicating that they are still on the outside looking in a decent bit.

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