A once-promising UT football season that began with visions of sugarplums has been snatched away like the last can of Who-hash. The Vols will be packing their bags for what will be a mid-level bowl after Saturday’s humbling loss to Vanderbilt.
The lingering aftertaste has UT fans wondering how their defense became so lifeless. As the season progressed, the Vol defense became not mean and aggressive, but comforting like warm covers. It became cuddly like a kitten. Watching a game, I couldn’t help but think, “Aww, look at those guys in the orange jerseys trying to tackle someone. They’re so adorable.”
Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur is not a player known for his passing. Actually, he’s not a player known for this football skill. Yet the Vols let him throw for a career-high 416 yards, cementing their status as the worst defense in the SEC.
Fortunately, all is not lost in the state of Tennessee as we have four teams set to play in bowl games this year, a new high. They are UT, Vanderbilt, Memphis and MTSU.
If the Vols (8-4) end up in the Music City Bowl, as some analysts are projecting, they will have an extremely difficult time beating a projected opponent like Iowa. UT is also being mentioned for a spot in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., against the likes of Miami or Virginia Tech.
The Vols will be making their 52nd bowl appearance. Playing devil’s advocate, if UT were to lose its bowl game and finish 8-5, it would be a giant step backward from last year’s 9-4 record that seemed so encouraging.
Keep in mind this is an experienced UT squad that was picked by many preseason pundits to win the SEC East. The really depressing thought is if the Vols couldn’t win the SEC East this year, in what year will they be able to win it?
Let’s not forget Vanderbilt, everybody’s favorite lovable loser. The Commodores (6-6) will be making just their eighth bowl appearance. The Birmingham Bowl, a short three hours from Nashville, is a possible landing spot for the Commodores.
MTSU (8-4) will also be making its eighth bowl appearance. In a game that would have as much fan appeal as any in this region, it would be great if the Blue Raiders could face the Vols in a bowl.
Memphis will be making its 10th bowl appearance and could very well face an opponent like Southern Mississippi. This would be a yawner nobody wants to see. It’s also being projected Memphis could face MTSU in a game that packs a little more excitement.
My pick: Tennessee schools will go 3-1 in bowl games.