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Bowl Projections: Huge favorite emerges as Tennessee’s destination

Seems like Tennessee knows where they’ll be playing.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee wrapped up the 2023 regular season with an 8-4 mark, capping off the campaign with a 48-24 win over Vanderbilt. And now we wait seven days to see which bowl game they end up in.

Following the loss to Missouri, it became clear that Tennessee would be among the SEC teams in the “pool of six.” Following the loss to Georgia, one destination stood out above the rest. That projection held up through the final weekend.

Tennessee appears to be headed to Jacksonville to play in the Gator Bowl. Nothing is concrete at this point, but we do have a consensus among the projections going into championship week.

Let’s take a closer look.

Latest Tennessee Football Bowl Projections

247Sports: Gator vs. North Carolina

CBS Sports: Gator vs. North Carolina

ESPN 1: Gator vs. North Carolina

Our take: This matchup has been trending for a couple of weeks now, and once again it seems to be the consensus following the end of the regular season. 247Sports reports that Jacksonville “would love to have” North Carolina, as the Tar Heels haven’t played in the Gator Bowl in 25 years.

As for the matchup itself, North Carolina has really fallen apart down the stretch after looking like an ACC contender to start the year. Making matters more complicated here would be a potential opt-out of Drake Maye, who is slated to be a top five pick in the spring.

ESPN 2: Gator vs. N.C. State

Our take: Dave Doeren’s group ripped off five straight wins to close the season with a 9-3 mark. The Wolfpack turned back to veteran quarterback Brennan Armstrong to close the year, and looked strong down the stretch. They closed the season with a 39-20 win over North Carolina this weekend. Clearly, this would be a tougher matchup for the Volunteers.

It’s an interesting spot here for both teams, with Tennessee and N.C. State set to face each other in week two of the 2024 season. Would that factor into the decision?

CFB News: Gator vs. Clemson

Our take: Like Tennessee, Clemson took a step back in 2023. However, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers closed strong, going from 4-4 to finishing at 8-4. Would the bowl selection crew really let this matchup happen twice in a row though? Of course, Tennessee and Clemson faced off in the Orange Bowl last year. Would Jacksonville want that rematch? I’m skeptical.

We’ll find out Tennessee’s destination one week from now, as all the bowl game matchups are revealed live on ESPN (and inevitably leaked first on X).