Vols practice on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013
The current state of Tennessee football is best defined by streaks.
3 Consecutive losing seasons.
6 Consecutive losses to Alabama.
8 Consecutive losses to Florida.
13 Consecutive seasons without playing in a BCS bowl.
16 Consecutive hotel bowl cancellations.
You might not know about the last one. I don’t publicize it a lot.
As an obsessive planner, I make my hotel bowl reservations almost a year in advance. And I try to account for every reasonable contingency.
In the past three years, those contingencies included plans to attend 16 Tennessee bowl games. All of those hotel reservations had to be canceled.
Never mind that track record or the unfavorable preseason projections for the current Tennessee team. I already have planned bowl trips this December to such exotic locales as Northwest Louisiana and Northeast Florida.
In addition to reservations in Shreveport and Jacksonville, I have postseason hotel reservations in Nashville and Memphis.
The streak has to end some time, right?
In the meantime, it has affected my bowl outlook.
While college football’s mainstream seems agitated that too little is required to attain bowl eligibility, I have become increasingly opposed to the current standard, which requires a team to win six games to qualify for a bowl.
Two-loss teams aren’t banned from a national championship game. But seven-loss teams are ineligible to win the Godaddy.com Bowl trophy? It’s nonsensical.
It makes less sense when you contrast what is going on elsewhere with the SEC, which has won seven consecutive national titles.
Kentucky (2-10) was the worst team in the SEC last season. It also was good enough to beat bowl qualifier Kent State (11-3) by 33 points.
Auburn (3-9) was the next-worse team in the SEC. Yet it beat bowl qualifier Louisiana-Monroe (8-5).
Missouri won only two conference games in its first SEC season and finished 5-7 overall. But it beat two bowl teams, Arizona State and Central Florida.
Tennessee also was 5-7 and won only one conference game. It was still good enough to beat bowl qualifier N.C. State by 14 points on a neutral field in the season opener.
The best teams in the SEC are rewarded for playing in the nation’s premier conference. But the worst teams in the same conference are penalized.
How about a little consistency? In a sport so dependent on power rankings, how about rating every college team for bowl-eligibility purposes?
Such a system also would be fairer to the bowls in that it would give them more flexibility in the selection process.
You might argue that fans wouldn’t follow a 5-7 team to a bowl game. That’s not necessarily true.
It depends on the program and the circumstances. Not all 5-7 seasons are alike.
I doubt Tennessee fans would have followed last year’s 5-7 team beyond the city limits. But the response might be different this year if the Vols went 5-7 in coach Butch Jones’ first season.
Of course, under the current system, you would never know. Unless Tennessee can win six games, its last game will be in Lexington, Ky.
And my bowl streak will extend to 20 consecutive cancellations.