Tennessee Bowl Projections: Thanksgiving Week

The Vols handled their business against South Alabama, and picked up a couple of desired results elsewhere in the bowl pecking order. Auburn, once 6-2 and still alive for Atlanta, is now staring at 6-6 unless they can beat Alabama. And Florida fell to 5-6 and fired Dan Mullen, which should remove them as bowl competition for Tennessee.

Tennessee continues to be projected in the SEC’s group of six, almost exclusively in one of two places:

  • Charlotte: CBS, ESPN Bonagura
  • Nashville: 247, College Football News, ESPN Schlabach

Both of those bowls come with matchups that would excite (Penn State! Miami! North Carolina! Ranked NC State!) and those that might not (Minnesota! Unranked NC State!). They’re both good geographic fits for Tennessee’s fan base. And they’re both the best you can ask for if you’re not going to spend New Year’s in Florida in a traditional January 1 bowl.

But can Tennessee still get to the sunshine state?

Here are the most important outcomes this week:

  • Thursday: Ole Miss over Mississippi State. A Rebel victory in the Egg Bowl should lock them in to the New Year’s Six, moving everyone in the SEC up one spot. It would also leave the Bulldogs at 7-5, putting them on equal footing with Tennessee. If Mississippi State pulls the upset, the SEC can still get three teams in the CFP/NY6 so long as Alabama makes the playoff; the Sugar Bowl would then be required to take the next best SEC team.
  • Friday: Missouri over Arkansas. If the Razorbacks win, an 8-4 and ranked Arkansas that’s been more in the national conversation this year – and with a hungry fan base – should probably go ahead of Tennessee in the pecking order. A Mizzou victory would put the Tigers and Razorbacks even with Tennessee at 7-5. That 62-24 win in Columbia looks better by the week.
  • Saturday: Alabama over Auburn. Keeps the Tigers below Tennessee in the pecking order, and keeps Alabama in the playoff chase.
  • Saturday: Clemson over South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ rally helps Tennessee’s resume for sure. Let’s just not get carried away and give anyone the notion of putting them ahead of Tennessee in the pecking order.
  • Saturday: Louisville over Kentucky. If you want the biggest dreams, here’s the outcome you need most. At 9-3, the Cats would almost certainly (and deservedly) be the pick for the Outback Bowl. But if Kentucky slips to 8-4, and 2-4 in their last six? Could the folks in Tampa hope for a program with more momentum?

If you get those four outcomes, you’ll have Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss in the CFP/NY6, with Texas A&M in the Citrus Bowl. From there, the group of six – starting with the Outback Bowl – would be choosing from 8-4 Kentucky, 7-5 Arkansas/Mississippi State/Missouri/Tennessee, and a host of teams at 6-6 including Auburn, South Carolina, and potentially Florida and LSU.

In that scenario, the Vols could get to Jacksonville…or even Tampa. It’s unlikely, but possible.

Whatever it’s worth, here’s my most realistic scenario overall:

  • CFP/NY6: Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss
  • Citrus: Texas A&M
  • Outback: Kentucky
  • Gator: Arkansas
  • Music City: Tennessee
  • Mayo: South Carolina
  • Liberty: Mississippi State
  • Texas: Missouri
  • Birmingham: Auburn

But if the Vols handle Vanderbilt, there should be plenty of good options available.

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Isaac Bishop
Isaac Bishop
8 months ago

So it looks like it will come down between us and Arkansas. I’m split on those odds. Jacksonville loves us and our turn out. However, maybe they want a fresh face?

Also, if we don’t make it to the Gator Bowl do you think the Music City Bowl may have hard feelings for turning our nose up at them a couple years ago? I mean they’d be crazy to turn our money down and they may not care, but I don’t know how they’d feel about that.