Since Tennessee football’s first bowl game, the Volunteers have played 15 seasons on the heels of consecutive years without reaching the postseason.
After going 5-7 in 2018 under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee football missed out on a bowl game for the second straight year. Missing consecutive bowl games has been a thing for the Vols recently, but when you look at their history, it’s actually a very rare occurrence.
Dating back to their first bowl game in 1938, when they went 11-0, beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl and captured their first SEC and national title in what is undoubtedly the most significant season ever in school history, the Vols have only missed bowls in consecutive seasons 15 times. They made three straight starting with that 1938 team.
That is all despite the fact that for decades, less than 10 bowl games had openings. In fact, the Vols had never gone to the Rose Bowl before their first appearance in 1938, but that game began way back in 1902. Still, they are tied for fifth all time with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and USC Trojans in bowl appearances with 52, and seventh all time in wins with 28.
By the way, before their downward spiral beginning in 2005, they were second and tied for third respectively in those categories. Simply put, Tennessee football does not miss bowl games. That shows you how rare this decade has been.
But what’s even more clear is they shouldn’t be missing consecutive bowl games. Given what Pruitt inherited from Butch Jones’s last team, which went 4-8, it’s understandable why he did go 5-7. Losing seasons like that are still an issue, though.
So how have the Vols responded on the heels of consecutive seasons with a missed bowl game? This will be their 16th year entering such a scenario since that 1938 season. In this post, we’re going to rank the other 15 seasons.
Heading into each one of these years, the Vols had missed a bowl game in the previous two consecutive years at least, maybe even more. Sometimes they responded in fashion, other times they made things worse.
All of these seasons, though, were significant for the trajectory of the program. So let’s go ahead and break them down. This is our ranking of Tennessee football’s 15 seasons coming off consecutive seasons in which they missed a bowl since their first appearance in 1938.