“Yeah, absolutely,” was Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s response when asked if Tennessee would accept a bowl bid if they finish the season at 5-7.
“We’d love to play as many games as we could,” Pruitt said on Wednesday. “In the spring, I wish we could’ve had 45 practices instead of 15. We need all the practice we can get.”
With nearly 40 bowl games on the slate now, 5-7 teams have been filling out the bowl schedule for the past few years after a rule change in 2015. Those teams are chosen by Academic Progress Rates (APR). The highest scores are rewarded with bowl invitations, despite not getting to six wins on the season.
Tennessee (4-5) would have to find a way to win two of their next three games — Kentucky, Missouri and at Vanderbilt — to get eligible for a bowl the old fashioned way. That’s obviously the ultimate goal here, but Pruitt will take the extra work any way he can get it. As he said, Tennessee needs all the practice they can get.
The Vols currently are tied for 52nd in the APR scores, which is borderline for earning a bid at 5-7.
December is such an interesting time now for college coaches. The early signing period has made bowl season a balancing act, so it’s interesting to hear Pruitt so confidently say he would accept a bid at 5-7. Remember, Pruitt was forced to piece something together last year during the early signing period after a wild, month-long coaching search ate into his recruiting time. Clearly, Pruitt feels bowl practices and preparations wouldn’t hinder his ability to recruit during that time.
Tennessee’s last bowl appearance was in 2016 against Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.