Vols vs. Sooners in Cotton?

Tennessee and Oklahoma, two of the most storied programs in college football history, may add a third chapter to their once-in-a-blue-moon rivalry next January at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

At least, that's the early projection of noted football analyst Pete Fiutak. In a piece entitled "Preview 2008 – Early Bowl Projections" and posted at Collegefootballnews.com, Fiutak predicts that the Vols and Sooners will collide in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 2009.

Tennessee and Oklahoma have met just twice – each time in the Orange Bowl at Miami. The Vols prevailed 17-0 on Jan. 1, 1938. The Sooners got revenge 39 years later by winning 26-24 on Jan. 1, 1967.

Fiutak projects that nine of the 12 SEC teams will see bowl action following the 2008 season. Seven of these are listed in the non-BCS bowl projections he posted today. Two more, Florida and Georgia, will be in the BCS bowl predictions he posts on Friday. That means Fiutak projects either the Dawgs or the Gators to play in the BCS National Championship Game, with the other serving as host team for the Sugar Bowl. (We'll clarify this point as soon as Pete posts his BCS bowl picks on Friday.)

The top bowl available to SEC teams who do not qualify for BCS bids is the Capital One in Orlando. Fiutak's pick for that game is Auburn, with Penn State providing the opposition.

Next in the SEC pecking order is the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Tennessee played there in each of the past two postseasons, so it's highly unlikely the Vols would be invited back for a third consecutive visit. Fiutak doesn't see that happening, either, predicting LSU and Michigan to collide in the New Year's Day Bowl.

By pegging Tennessee for the Cotton Bowl, Fiutak suggests the Big Orange will be the SEC's fifth-best team of 2008 – trailing Georgia, Florida, Auburn and LSU.

The league's sixth-best team traditionally goes to the Chick fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. Fiutak projects South Carolina will face Boston College in that Dec. 31 pairing.

As the SEC's seventh-best team, Arkansas is Fiutak's pick to face Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl Jan. 2 at Memphis.

Finally, Fiutak has Alabama facing Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl Dec. 31 at Nashville.

By contract, the SEC is supposed to provide a team for the Independence Bowl at Shreveport. With two SEC teams involved in BCS play, however, Fiutak does not foresee Ole Miss, Mississippi State or Vanderbilt posting the six wins necessary to be bowl-eligible.

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