ESPN’s FPI projects the Vols to finish with 5.5 regular season wins. At the moment, bowl eligibility is – barely but fairly! – the most likely outcome. You can do your own math with our expected win total machine, but most of us are coming in on the right side of six wins. And thanks to Missouri’s struggles against Kentucky and Vanderbilt, seven wins – the very 7-5 finish many of us picked at the start of the season – suddenly feels like it’s on the table too.
FPI will cool those jets, giving Tennessee just an 11.2% chance of winning out. This season should’ve taught us not to get ahead of ourselves when it comes to the Vols, and no one should be taking anyone for granted. UAB opened as a 13-point underdog, and by Tuesday it’s already 10. Vegas has underestimated the Vols by a combined 54 points in the last three weeks. I’d love to make it four. But Tennessee needs to take things one Saturday at a time.
For the rest of us, however, let’s consider the following possibility:
- Alabama and LSU both make the College Football Playoff
- The Sugar Bowl is required to take the next highest-ranked SEC team, probably the Florida/Georgia winner
- The Florida/Georgia loser wins out, finishes 10-2, and is ranked high enough in the CFP poll to earn an at-large bid to the New Year’s Six
- The Citrus Bowl is required to take the next highest-ranked SEC team, probably Auburn
That scenario plays out in Banner Society’s bowl projections; Jason Kirk has been one of the very best (by being one of the most realistic) in those projections for a long time. He doesn’t have Tennessee bowl eligible, so let’s hope that part is unrealistic. But if all of the above plays out, the SEC’s Group of Six bowls would be choosing between a Texas A&M team who finishes at Georgia and at LSU, Kentucky (FPI projects at 7-5), Missouri if they’re eligible, and – if they can get to six wins – Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
It’s a nice, neat group of six if everyone is eligible. But FPI projects South Carolina to come up short, and Missouri is still ineligible at the moment. It could be that those six bowls are choosing between A&M, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. A&M played in the Gator Bowl last year, Mississippi State in the Outback.
If the Vols are 7-5 on a five -game winning streak? It ain’t gonna be the Liberty Bowl, friends.
Keep taking care of business, and there’s a real chance the Vols could spend January in Florida.