Just days after beating Kentucky, the Wildcats remain Tennessee's competition for the SEC's bid to the Outback Bowl, according to a source close to the selection process.
Tickets sold - or the promise of - likely will be the determining factor despite the fact that UT (7-5, 4-4) has a better conference record than Kentucky (7-5, 3-5) and the Vols beat the Wildcats 30-24 on Saturday.
Using guarantees of tickets sold as a determining factor in offering bowl bids is not allowed by SEC rules, yet the Outback Bowl has been suspected of doing so before.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton reminded the media of that rule after the Kentucky game. Hamilton hasn't been known to take part in bowl bidding wars.
The Vols looked destined to end up in the Outback Bowl following the 2003 regular season when they were ranked sixth in the nation. Instead, the Outback chose Florida. UT slipped to the Chick-fil-A as the highest-rated team in the bowl's history.
An official announcement could come as early as today, though the SEC may not release non-BCS teams to be selected by bowls until Wednesday or later, according to SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom.
If the conference decides not to release those teams an announcement wouldn't come until Sunday, though clearly the bowls are hoping to start selling tickets as soon as possible.
"We're of the hope that we're going to be able to announce something (today)," said Mike Schulze, director of communications for the Outback Bowl. "We need the BCS to commit to taking two SEC teams, which they should and we're hoping they'll do on their teleconference, and then everybody can move forward.
"We haven't done anything yet. We're talking to everybody today that's potentially eligible for us. The first thing is, we need to get the OK from the SEC."
Once cleared, it should come down to UT and Kentucky, both of which would have energized fan bases. UT finished 7-5 after a 2-3 start under first-year coach Lane Kiffin. The Vols played Alabama and Florida close on the road.
Kentucky beat Auburn and Georgia on the road for one of their most memorable seasons in school history, though it ended with more bitter disappointment against the Vols.
Even that loss didn't leave them out of the mix for the league's prestigious bowls, and both the Wildcats and Vols were included in rumors of a possible Outback and Cotton Bowl swap.
That Cotton Bowl deal was seemingly nixed by a report from ESPN's Ivan Maisel on Twitter that indicated Ole Miss would earn the bid to Dallas, leaving the Outback with its traditional SEC East pick safe.
Which team will face them likely won't be determined until the weekend, but Wisconsin appears to be the favorite.
If the Vols lose out on the Outback Bowl bid, they would not fall further than the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, according to the source.
Virginia Tech is thought to be the likely ACC opponent in Atlanta because of the way the Hokies finished the season with four wins.
Georgia Tech and Clemson meet Saturday in the ACC title game. The winner will get a BCS bowl bid. The loser will finish with two straight losses.
If the Outback selects UT, Georgia would be the likely pick for the Chick-fil-A bowl.
Austin Ward contributed to this report.