Tennessee Stat Book
Making the SEC championship game could mean another December trip to Atlanta for Tennessee.
Win out and UT's bowl destination is simple. The Vols would be the SEC champion representative in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1.
Lose the SEC championship game to LSU, which has secured the SEC West title, and the Vols likely would be headed back to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl would prefer to land Alabama from the SEC, a source close to the bowl told the News Sentinel. That looks unlikely since the Chik-fil-A holds the fourth SEC bowl pick and must take the championship game loser if that team is still available.
Assuming LSU wins out, the Tigers will play in the national championship game. Then, the Capital One Bowl would have the first pick among the remaining teams. Georgia and Florida likely would be the top choices. The Outback Bowl would then have the next pick.
The winner of the Auburn-Alabama game seems likely to end up in the Cotton Bowl. That would leave UT in position to play in the Chick-fil-A, formerly the Peach Bowl.
That could change if the Outback or Cotton decide to exercise their mandatory selection of an SEC championship game loser.
Those two bowls, along with the Capital One and Chick-fil-A, must take the SEC championship game loser at least once in a four-year cycle. Capital One did so last year when it selected Arkansas.
The Outback seems an unlikely destination for UT since the Vols played there last year, losing to Penn State 20-10. It's rare that the Cotton elects to take a team from the SEC East because of proximity.
The Cotton Bowl has picked only two SEC East teams in the past nine years, both times UT (2001 and 2005).
The best chance for UT to move up in the bowl pecking order would be for Georgia to win out and receive an at-large selection from a BCS bowl. That could open the door for UT to play in the Capital One, although that still seems unlikely with nearby Florida in line.
The Chick-fil-A views UT as an appealing selection if Alabama is not available, the source said, despite the fact UT played poorly in its last two trips there. The Vols lost to Clemson, 27-14, following the 2003 season and fell to Maryland, 30-3, in 2002.
If UT doesn't win out and plays in the SEC championship game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl still is possible, although the slide would likely be to the Music City Bowl in Nashville or the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.