The Michigan Wolverines have received some pretty decent bowl bids under Jim Harbaugh, including two New Year’s Six appearances. However, The Athletic is not expecting one of those more prestigious bowls to be in the cards this time around.
Stewart Mandel, who has been covering college football for nearly two decades, compiled his list for all 41 bowl games at the conclusion of the 2020 season. For the Wolverines, he projects them projected to finish third in the Big Ten (behind Ohio State and Wisconsin) and head to the Outback Bowl to face the Tennessee Volunteers, the third-place team from the SEC.
Recent history does not fair well for Michigan at the Outback Bowl, losing each of the last two games to South Carolina in Tampa Bay. The Wolverines have an all-time record of 3-3 in the bowl game’s history that dates back to 1986.
Michigan and Tennessee have only met one time in each program’s illustrious histories, which came back in 2002 when the Volunteers crushed the Wolverines 45-17 in the Citrus Bowl.
An Outback Bowl bid against Tennessee would be a disappointment for a few reasons. It would be the third appearance in this bowl for Michigan in the last eight years, making it a monotonous trend. It also might be another drag for fans hoping to see them finish higher in the standings and take on a more elite opponent.
Even if the Volunteers have a strong season, they have been a shell of the team they were in the late ‘90s, and they haven’t had a 10-win season since 2007. This would hardly be the matchup that it would have been in both program’s heyday of competing for national titles.
Mandel highlights in his piece that because of the lack of games from teams in the Pac-12 and MAC, he projects schools in the ACC and SEC to receive nods over a lot of teams that chose to play fewer games.
He wrote, “There will be some well-below .500 teams participating. In fact, the SEC and ACC, depending on how many New Year’s Six berths they receive, could send nearly their entire leagues to bowl games. I have 13 SEC teams, and one of the matchups I projected would pit 4-7 Florida State against 2-8 Vanderbilt. I’m not kidding.”
So no matter what, this may be a strange bowl season. Let’s hope the Wolverines get a better matchup than what Mandel anticipates.