And with that, Tennessee’s playoff hopes are dead. The Volunteers produced a choke job for the ages on Saturday night in Columbia, letting Spencer Rattler and South Carolina carve them up over and over again. The result was a blowout loss, and any championship thoughts went straight out the window.
Tennessee still has something to play for, however. The Vols would more than likely earn a New Year’s Six bowl bid with a win on Saturday night in Nashville against Vanderbilt. The Sugar Bowl is likely off the table with both Alabama and LSU now ranked ahead of Tennessee, but the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl are still on the table.
Here’s a look at some updated projections after the loss.
Updated Bowl Projections for Tennessee Football
Action Network: Cotton vs. Tulane
Sports Illustrated: Citrus vs. Iowa
CBS Sports: Cotton vs. Cincinnati
Athlon: Cotton vs. Cincinnati
ESPN Bonagura: Orange vs. Clemson
ESPN Schlabach: Cotton vs. Tulane
First things first, Tennessee has to take care of business against Vanderbilt, and they’ll have to do it with Hendon Hooker. Tennessee’s star quarterback went down late against the Gamecocks, and it was confirmed on Sunday that he suffered a torn ACL. So it’s Joe Milton the rest of the way for Tennessee. Another note — freshman quarterback Tayven Jackson has a collarbone injury, which leaves the Volunteers with just one scholarship quarterback left in Milton. Gaston Moore will serve as the backup.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is surging. Back to back SEC wins have the Commodores one win away from bowl eligibility. They’ve got everything to play for, and a disappointed Tennessee team is suddenly in a tricky spot. The Vols opened as two-touchdown favorites on Sunday afternoon.
Tennessee fell to No. 9 in the AP poll on Sunday, and should land in a similar spot with the College Football Playoff committee. That’s going to put them right on the borderline of that at-large bid. If it’s not a New Year’s Six bid, the Citrus Bowl seems like a logical fall-back option — I’m sure Steve Spurrier would love that.