After two long agonizing seasons the Tennessee Volunteers are back in the college football bowl business. Tennessee will face Indiana from the Big Ten at the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. For a brief time on Sunday Vol fans had begun making plans to attend the Music City Bowl in Nashville and a match up with Louisville. That changed quickly in the afternoon as several media outlets incorrectly announced Nashville was the destination, then had to retract their stories.
The sudden change in bowl venues brought mixed emotions from fans across the state.
Some were happy to be headed to a Florida bowl game after Christmas while others were disappointed the Volunteers were not going to be playing closer to home. I'm sure that Tennessee players and coaches were happy to just be in the post season no matter where the destination was.
Thinking back to the beginning of the season when most experts predicted Tennessee would be 7-5 or even 8-4, the Vols were 0-2 with back to back home losses to Georgia State and Brigham Young causing a widespread panic in Big Orange country. There was wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth as some even predicted an 0-12 season could be at hand. While that gloom, despair and agony was going on in the background, Coach Jeremy Pruitt's team stayed the course and eventually put things together, ending the 2019 campaign with five straight wins. As the season came to a close, no team in the country wanted to face Tennessee.
I'm sure that some Alabama fans are disappointed the Crimson Tide will be playing Michigan in the Citrus Bowl rather than being in the College Football Playoffs for a sixth straight season, but that's how the ball bounces. While things didn't go Alabama's way in 2019, I'm sure that as soon as the bowls are over and we crown a new national champion, the quest will begin to bring Alabama football back in the conversation concerning national championships for 2020.
But for now, Tennessee fans are happy to just be back in the college bowl arena. It doesn't matter if it's the Gator Bowl or the "Punch Bowl" the Volunteers are back as they look to extend their bowl game winning streak to four in a row.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org