Don’t rule out a sunny bowl destination for Tennessee
Don’t pack away those summer clothes just yet. You might need them for Tennessee’s bowl trip.
While most national bowl analysts are predicting a cold-weather bowl destination for the Vols, don’t rule out Tennessee ending up in a Florida bowl – if the Vols can manage to win their last four games.
The first thing to realize when reading bowl projections is that some are based only on the current record and where a team is “slotted” by its standing in the SEC. In these projections, Tennessee is a 4-4 team in the middle of the SEC pack, not an 8-4 team with five straight wins like the team the Vols could become. But if the Vols can get to eight wins, the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., makes plenty of sense.
- Tennessee would be riding a five-game winning streak if it wins the remainder of its games. That would create fan optimism. That’s important for the SEC and bowl committees. That would result in more tickets sold and more hotel rooms booked.
- Speaking of travel, Tennessee once again has the reputation of being a team with a strong following to bowl games. The Vols filled up the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., to end the 2014 season. They would certainly travel en masse if Tennessee can finish strong and end up in a Florida bowl. This is a change from when Tennessee’s bowl travel reputation waned at times after its fans got spoiled with exciting bowl destinations, so the Vols often slipped a slot or two in the latter years under former coach Phillip Fulmer. Now, when it comes to bowl slotting, the Vols are a hot commodity again.
- Look to last year. Auburn was an eight-win team and made it to the Outback Bowl. Sure, UGA was technically more deserving with nine regular0season wins, but the school instead ended up in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl. Bowls aren’t designed to be fair. They’re designed to make money. Auburn and Tennessee have fans bases that give them clout when it comes to bowl slotting.
- Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart proved savvy last year when he used his relationships to help the Vols get into the TaxSlayer Bowl. That game wasn’t even thought to be an option until it was announced that was where the Vols were headed. Hart’s experience gives him clout in the SEC office and among bowl committees.
- Tennessee may even end up being the most attractive bowl team in the SEC East. Sure, that sounds odd with Florida having a fantastic season, but it’s possible. Bowl committees, who still have some say in the process, won’t do backflips over the Gators if they lose the SEC Championship game. There is always an SEC Championship hangover concern for the losing team. Those schools’ fans typically don’t travel as well. Florida fans are also more likely to day trip to a bowl game if it’s in Florida instead of spending several days at the bowl site. Tennessee and Florida aren’t in the same bowl conversation now, but they could be soon. If Florida loses to Florida State and loses the SEC championship game, the Gators would have 10 wins. That would make for an interesting debate between Florida and Tennessee for the better bowl slotting. Bowls once had to stay within a one-loss differential when selecting their teams. That’s not the case anymore as the SEC can send any team to any bowl it chooses, meaning the Vols could easily end up in the Outback Bowl if they win out.