A year after getting passed over by the Outback Bowl, Tennessee's postseason destination may again be affected by the "mavericks" (read: children) behind the bowl in Tampa. This time, however, the Outback Bowl's ridiculous decision making may actually help Tennessee...depending on your point of view.
After being led to believe we were headed to Nashville for the December 30 Music City Bowl all week, a new scenario gained traction yesterday: if the Outback takes 7-5 Florida and screws over 9-4 South Carolina in the process, the Gamecocks would fall to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. That would leave the Gator Bowl with a tough choice: 8-4 Mississippi State, who in every way deserves a better bowl destination than we do this year, or the 6-6 Vols. MSU is the better team, but the Vols would not only travel better (we assume), but pull a much higher television number...especially if the Gator can get Michigan for Round Two of "Tennessee takes the 1997 Heisman Trophy and beats the Wolverines to death with it", previously seen in January 2002.
The Music City Bowl is where we belong - it's the destination we deserve as a 6-6 team, and it's an easy trip for everyone to get to Nashville. The human element has complicated this picture somewhat - when priority bowl ticket applications were sent to UT season ticket holders last Sunday, the Gator Bowl wasn't even listed as an option. Some non-season ticket holders jumped the gun with all signs pointing to Nashville...let's just say that there will be a significant number of Tennessee fans looking to unload tickets to the Music City Bowl if the destination is indeed Jacksonville.
On the other hand, the Gator - especially if Michigan is the opponent - is a much better opportunity for the program. For this team to play on January 1 in Derek Dooley's first year is a huge deal, and it would give Tennessee (and Tyler Bray) a much bigger stage with a much bigger audience, a chance to build even more momentum. Beating North Carolina would be nice. Beating Michigan would be better.
So which would you prefer? The assumed opponent in Nashville is the Tar Heels, an opponent the Vols just bought out from a home-and-home series in 2011/12. It's a great problem to have, and either situation would be a good one...which would you rather see?
We'll find out the answer later today.