The Tennessee Vols’ main goal heading into the 2019 season was to reach a bowl game for the first time since the 2016 season.

But after a 1-3 start to the season, the Vols’ chances of reaching a bowl game seem slim at best.

Which is why it’s surprising that Sports Illustrated’s latest bowl projections, which were updated after this past weekend, have the Vols playing UCF in the Birmingham Bowl on January 2.

If Tennessee turns the season around and reaches a bowl, then I think it will restore a lot of faith in Jeremy Pruitt.

But it seems very unlikely that UT gets to six wins. The mountain is simply too high to climb.

Two of the Vols’ next three games are against Georgia and Alabama. Those games are almost certainly guaranteed losses.

Sandwiched in between the matchups against Georgia and Alabama is a tilt against Mississippi State in Knoxville. That’s a game I felt was winnable for Tennessee prior to the start of the season. But after watching the Vols the first four weeks of the season, I think it would be silly to expect anything other than a loss in that matchup.

But the only way for Tennessee to reach a bowl game is to win that game against Mississippi State. If they lose that game, it means they’ll have to win 5 straight games to end the season to reach a bowl. With matchups against South Carolina, UAB, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt remaining, it’s certainly possible that UT could flip the light switch and go on an impressive run to close the season.

However, based on what we’ve seen so far this season, it just doesn’t seem likely.

And Sports Illustrated projecting Tennessee to reach a bowl game doesn’t do a thing to make me feel more optimistic about the Vols’ bowl game hopes.

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports