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Avoiding a Repeat of the Vols’ 2016 Season has now become Tennessee’s Goal

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In the most disappointing way possible, Tennessee’s playoff chances came to an end over the weekend with a loss to South Carolina. 

In addition, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with a torn ACL. Hooker wasn’t only a star on the field for the Volunteers, but he was their leader and provided a spark throughout the season. 

With two losses, Tennessee finds itself relinquished to the Citrus Bowl as currently projected. If everything goes right, the Volunteers MIGHT sneak into the Cotton Bowl. 

In an age where opting out and declaring for the NFL draft is accepted, what keeps Tennessee players locked in?

“We know that we still have a chance to play for a New Year Six Bowl and that’s a big thing for this program,” defensive lineman Omari Thomas said. “I don’t really know when the last time we played for a New Year Six Bowl, but I know that that’s still a big bowl game for us. There’s still something that we’re looking forward to. We just have to go out here this week and handle business against Vandy and just let the chips fall where they fall. Hopefully, we get a chance of playing a New Year Six Bowl.”

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The last time Tennessee had a decent squad was in 2016. Sitting on top of the SEC East after defeating Florida and Georgia, the Volunteers dropped games against Texas A&M and Alabama. Their goals were still in front of them. 

Then Tennessee lost in the sandstorm of Williams-Brice Stadium… sound familiar?

The 2016 Vols did bounce back and beat Kentucky and Missouri. Then they traveled to Nashville. 

The 2016 trip to Nashville ended in a defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt. That team was sent back to Nashville for the Music City Bowl a month later. 

For a season that has exceeded expectations already, a trip to the Music City Bowl would still garner disappointment from the Volunteer faithful. 

To make matters worse, Vanderbilt is coming off a win against Florida and playing confident football. 

“They’re playing high right now, so I know they’re going to come out, they’re going to play confident,” Thomas said. “They’re going to feel that they can win the game. Just like we go in, feeling we can win the game. It’s at their place, it’s a rivalry game and I feel like if they win this game they could be bowl eligible. I think so. We know we’re going to get everything that they’re going to give us…We have to go in ready to play hard. We can’t go in expecting to win.”

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