Someone I know very well said to me this week, “Tennessee did not belong in a bowl game to begin with.”
I’m not so sure about that. Playing an All-SEC schedule, the Volunteers won a meager three games, but in most years that would be enough to garner a bowl bid if they win at least three of their four non-league games.
The Vols were supposed to play West Virginia on New Years Eve in the Liberty Bowl, but opted out after an outbreak of COVID-19 inside the team.
Because of the virus, we’ll never know if UT could have mustered three non-SEC wins from an original schedule that included home games against Charlotte, Furman and Troy and a road date at Oklahoma.
The first three should have been wins, but with this Vols squad who knows? The Sooners would have likely toyed with Tennessee and still won by a large margin in Norman.
The Volunteers couldn’t score much, averaging 21.5 points per game (third lowest in the SEC) while allowing 30 points per contest on defense, which also ranks in the bottom half of the league. They could never find consistent play at the quarterback position while the running game showed up well on occasion.
Despite all the negatives UT still managed to squeeze three wins out of the 2020 slate but were beaten by 20 points or more four times while all seven losses came by double digits.
Not necessarily bowl-worthy numbers right?
Maybe not. As long as a team meets the criteria set by the NCAA of six wins it doesn’t matter how bad the losses are. Granted, if Volunteer fans aren’t inspired by three measly little old wins then that may affect bowl game attendance. On the other hand, in a year better known for a virus than college football, attendance will be noticeably less than in a normal year anyway.
So did Tennessee deserve a bowl at 3-7? Let’s look at it from a different angle.
Ole Miss, despite the absence of an SEC-type defense, goes 4-5 and receives an invitation to face No. 7 Indiana in the Outback Bowl. Mississippi State, with an offense that didn’t perform up to the high standards of a typical Mike Leach air-raid team, finishes the regular season at 3-7 and will play No. 23 Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl.
In a day and time when fans are so fair-weathered it’s almost sickening, followers of both teams have been sounding off on social media in a negative connotation indicative of hatred.
Check Thursday’s edition for a separate column on that very subject.
Rebel fans, in large numbers, are voicing their disapproval of the teams Outback Bowl bid. “With our defense we don’t deserve a bowl like that” they’re saying.
State fans are saying pretty much the same thing about their Bulldogs. I have my opinions about why that is but for now I’ll hold onto those for myself.
My old friend Parrish Alford, who has been the Ole Miss beat writer for the Daily Journal for the better part of 20 years, had this to say on his Ole Miss Facebook thread.
“In a normal year a 4-4 record would put a team in line for a bowl such as the Outback.”
Since SEC teams played nothing but other SEC teams this year we can’t judge the bowl selections as we normally would. For instance, how does an 8-2 Army team get left out of the bowl picture and a 4-5 Ole Miss team receive a bid to a warm weather bowl against a 6-1, top-10 opponent?
I don’t have all those answers. However, I do know that, unless things change, the bowl match-ups – like ‘em or not – are set and the games will be played.
By the way, the Scarlet Knights accepted an invitation to replace Tennessee in the Liberty Bowl.
Until next time…