Tennessee has earned its opportunity. As Derek Dooley said Wednesday, the Power T will be visible during bowl season.
But so far, an opportunity is all it is.
"You want 'em talking about you, you want 'em talking about you in a positive way,'' Dooley said on the eve of the Vols' opening bowl practice.
"The bowls can be a great thing or it can also be not so good. If you go out there and lay an egg, it ain't good for the program.''
Tennessee will lay either an egg or a bridge to the 2011 season on Dec. 30 against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
The Vols are a modest 3-6 in their nine bowl games since the 1998 national championship season. Anyone care for an omelette?
That momentous night in Arizona also is the last time they've beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference team in a bowl. They've since lost to Maryland, Clemson and, last year, Virginia Tech.
If ever a UT team could use a bowl victory to cap a year, this is it. The T on the helmet has stood for turmoil for three consecutive seasons, led by three different head coaches.
Of course, North Carolina is saying much the same thing.
Last August, the program was hit with a haymaker as agent-infraction issues roiled the college football landscape.
Fourteen Tar Heels missed at least one game due to suspensions arising from NCAA inquiries and seven missed the entire year.
So attrition and adversity are not strangers to either team prepping for Nashville.
"They've been through a whole lot, and we have, too,'' UT linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "It's gonna be two tough teams battling it out.''
North Carolina's 7-5 record suggests an opponent very much in Tennessee's niche. Yet that bottom line might be deceiving.
"As talented a team as I've seen all year on film,'' Dooley said. "They went through a lot of adversity that affected their results.
"Give their coaching staff credit for keeping 'em focused through a lot of distraction.''
Reveiz sees an offense well-stocked at the skill positions. Quarterback T.J. Yates completes 67 percent of his passes and has shattered 31 school records.
Luke Stocker, UT's senior tight end, sees a Tar Heel defense that has filled holes to rank 32nd in the nation in total defense and allow only 22.9 points per game.
"Their record doesn't speak to how good they really are," Stocker said.
At any rate, Tennessee has its work cut out. North Carolina is a 2- to 3-point favorite in most books.
Dooley has two weeks to make sure that's not what the scoreboard at LP Field reflects when time runs out on the 2010 season.
Qualifying for a bowl after the Vols started 2-6 is reason enough to celebrate. But the time for that celebration was immediately after the Nov. 27 win over Kentucky that allowed UT to meet the minimum bowl standard of 6-6.
Reveiz said the entire senior class convened that night at "an undisclosed location" (but not Bar Knoxville) to reflect on their careers, their season and the final chapter to be written in Nashville.
"This whole year,'' Reveiz said, "has been about trusting coach Dooley."
Now they have two more weeks to trust him.
"I'm not into the 'we go and it's a celebration' deal,'' Dooley said. "We have a game.
"We're going to go try to win a football game, just like they're going to do."
It's an opportunity - to lay an egg or a bridge.