UT's bowl destination?

Given that virtually nothing has gone as expected during this Southeastern Conference football season, you'd have to be stark-raving mad to try and project the bowl match-ups involving SEC teams.

So, here goes:

The one thing that has gone as expected this fall is that talent-rich LSU has breezed to the Western Division title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game. I see the Tigers gobbling up Arkansas on Thanksgiving Day in Baton Rouge, beating whoever wins the East in the SEC Championship Game and advancing to the BCS Title Game Jan. 7 in New Orleans. Best guess: LSU vs. West Virginia. This would be a great matchup befitting a title tilt – the Mountaineers' explosive offense and the Tigers' dynamic defense.

When I left Neyland Stadium following Tennessee's 35-14 blitz of Georgia on Oct. 6, I never dreamed the Bulldogs would bounce back to play in a BCS bowl game. Convincing defeats of Florida, Auburn and Kentucky the past few weeks changed my mind, though. The Dawgs should whip Georgia Tech this Saturday, giving them a 10-2 record and a top-eight ranking. Best guess: With SEC champ LSU playing in the BCS Title Game, Georgia serves as host team for the Sugar Bowl, facing unbeaten and untested Hawaii.

It's no secret that the Capital One Bowl is looking to pair the home-state Florida Gators against Illinois, coached by former Gator boss Ron Zook. That's one I'd tune in to watch. Best guess: Florida vs. Illinois in the Capital One Bowl.

I don't know if Kentucky will beat Tennessee this weekend in Lexington or not, but I think the Big Blue will be spending the bowl season in Tampa either way. Kentucky has an exciting offense and a fan base that proved in last year's Music City Bowl it will travel to support its team. The fact Tennessee played poorly in last year's Outback Bowl and was unimpressive vs. Vanderbilt last weekend probably means the Vols won't get invited back to Tampa. Best guess: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

Auburn should dump Alabama this weekend in the Iron Bowl, giving the Tigers an 8-4 record and a slight edge over Tennessee for the Cotton Bowl bid. Auburn will have beaten two teams who thrashed the Vols (Florida and Bama). Besides, the Cotton Bowl seems to prefer SEC West teams. Best guess: Auburn vs. Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

Book it: Tennessee will head into bowl play with four losses. If the Vols lose to Kentucky, they'll finish regular-season play 8-4. If they beat Kentucky, they'll lose to LSU in the SEC Championship Game and finish regular-season play 9-4. Unless they blow out Kentucky and play LSU really close – don't hold your breath – I think the Vols are headed for either the Cotton Bowl or the Chick Fil-A Bowl. As noted earlier, the Cotton seems to prefer SEC West teams, so I think the Vols could be making two trips to Atlanta in the next six weeks. Best guess: Tennessee vs Clemson in a rematch of the 2003 Peach Bowl.

Sylvester Croom is a class act, and he deserves all of the good things that are happening to him. His Mississippi State Bulldogs should expose the Ole Miss Rebels for the turkeys they are on Thanksgiving Day, giving MSU a 7-5 record and the SEC Coach of the Year. That ought to warrant an invitation to Nashville. Best guess: Mississippi State vs. Florida State in the Music City Bowl.

If Arkansas uses the same game plan vs. LSU this Saturday it used against Tennessee two weeks ago – "Forget Darren McFadden, let's put the game in Casey Dick's hands" – the Razorbacks will get hammered. Ole Miss' Brent Schaeffer showed last week that a mobile quarterback can give LSU's defense trouble, so McFadden could be very effective running the Wild Hog package ... if the Hogs elect to utilize it. I don't see Arkansas beating LSU but I think the Razorbacks can play well enough to earn a bowl bid. Having the NCAA's finest running back is a nice drawing card, too. Best guess: Arkansas vs. Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.

Losing this Saturday at Auburn will leave Alabama with a 6-6 record and a four-game losing streak to end the regular season. Still, there's an intriguing matchup to be made – Alabama vs. Texas A&M, coached by former Tide head man Dennis Franchione. Best guess: Alabama vs. Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl.

CBSsportsline.com is predicting that South Carolina will play in the Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 31 at Fort Worth. I don't see it, even with Steve Spurrier's name recognition. A loss to Clemson this Saturday would leave the Gamecocks with a 6-6 record and a five-game losing streak. There has to be a team out there more deserving of a post-season bid than that. Then again, maybe not.


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