UT fans eager to go bowling

After missing out on the bowl activity a year ago, University of Tennessee football fans apparently are eager to make up for lost time this season. The Vols' bowl destination doesn't seem to matter.

UT athletics director Mike Hamilton said today that advance sales are "going very well," adding: "We haven't had a chance to record the mail-in orders but we're in the 5,000 range on the majority of bowls."

Tennessee's best-case scenario appears to be for Florida to beat Arkansas in Saturday's SEC Championship Game. That would put the Gators in the Sugar Bowl and probably put LSU in another BCS bowl (possibly the Rose). That would leave UT, Arkansas and Auburn as the three best options for the Orlando-based Capital One Bowl.

Since Wisconsin faced Auburn in last year's game and the Badgers are already locked in for this year's game, a rematch with the Tigers is highly unlikely. And, with Arkansas coming off consecutive losses, the Razorbacks might be less attractive to Capital One brass than the Vols.

Should Arkansas beat Florida Saturday night, Arkansas would get the Sugar Bowl bid and the Orange Bowl would likely scarf up the home-state Gators. That would leave LSU as the probable pick for the Capital One Bowl, with either UT or Auburn getting the Outback Bowl berth opposite Penn State. Should Auburn get the nod, Tennessee probably would slide to the Cotton Bowl.

Of course, if the SEC fails to get two teams in BCS bowls, the Vols could tumble all the way to the Chick Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis or even the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

Although Tennessee's bowl destination remains a mystery, many fans are buying advance tickets on a contingency plan. And, the more fans commit to buy tickets, the more leverage Hamilton has as he tries to negotiate the best possible bowl bid for the Vols.

"It doesn't hurt," he said, adding that the push for early ticket orders was done "for a couple of reasons: To get an indication of the demand from our fans for the various bowls and to give the bowl officials an idea of the fan following they can expect from Tennessee."

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