By Steve Williams

Going into this past weekend’s homecoming game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Tennessee’s football team was 3-5 and looking for its first win since defeating UMass 17-13 on Sept. 23.

Despite four straight SEC losses, the Vols hadn’t quit and were still hoping to earn a bowl bid, which requires six victories and a .500 won-loss percentage to officially be qualified.

Tennessee plays at Missouri this coming Saturday night and finishes regular season play with home games against LSU and Vanderbilt.

In past seasons, with not enough 6-6 teams to go around, the NCAA has permitted teams with 5-7 records to fill out the bowl schedule.

Last year, Coach Dan Mullen’s 5-7 Mississippi State Bulldogs received a bowl bid due to its high APR score (Academic Progress Rate) and nipped the Miami of Ohio RedHawks 17-16 in the St. Petersburg Bowl to end up 6-7.

Personally, I hope Tennessee can get to 6-6 and go bowling, with a chance to finish 7-6. If the Vols fall short of 6-6, they need to stay home.

Bowl games should be a reward. A team that loses more games than it wins should not be rewarded. It’s that simple.

The NCAA should reduce the number of bowl games to a point each contest can be filled with teams that are at least 6-6.

Actually, I would like to see the qualification bar raised to 7-5, guaranteeing every bowl team would end the season with a winning record.

Earlier this season, Tennessee had been mentioned as a candidate to play in the Birmingham Bowl at historic Legion Field on Dec. 22 against an American Athletic Conference member.

Central Florida (7-0) entered this past weekend as the AAC East leader. Memphis, with former Vol Riley Ferguson at quarterback, was on top in the West with a 7-1 worksheet.

At the time of this writing, I could see Tennessee finishing anywhere from 3-9 to 7-5. In other words, there’s no automatic win in front of the Vols.

That cold fact at least adds some suspense to what has been thus far one of the worse seasons on record.

UT has never lost eight games in a season. I hope these Vols keep it that way and are rewarded for it.