Cotton Bowl for Vols?

Tennessee could wind up playing in the Cotton Bowl this January if a few things fall into place for the Vols.

It's a virtual certainty that either SEC East champ Florida or SEC West champ Alabama will play in the BCS national championship game, with the other serving as host team for the Sugar Bowl.

LSU appeared to be a lock for the Capital One Bowl until it lost 25-23 to Ole Miss last weekend. The Tigers (8-3) could still wind up in Orlando if they beat Arkansas this Saturday in Baton Rouge, however.

Ole Miss, also 8-3, might be a more attractive option to the Capital One folks since the Rebels beat LSU on Saturday and feature a couple of high-profile weapons in quarterback Jevan Snead and electrifying Dexter McCluster. Ole Miss still must beat Mississippi State this Saturday in Starkville, however.

Should Auburn, 7-4, upset unbeaten Alabama on Friday, the Tigers almost certainly would zoom to the top of the Capital One's checklist.

Should Arkansas upset LSU in Baton Rouge, the Hogs would be 8-4 and riding a five-game winning streak. They also have the NCAA's hottest passer in Ryan Mallett, which would attract a lot of media attention. Don't count Bobby Petrino's team out of the Capital One mix just yet.

For the sake of argument, let's say each of these games is won by the favorite - Bama over Auburn, LSU over Arkansas, Ole Miss over Mississippi State. This leaves Ole Miss and LSU at 9-3, Arkansas and Auburn at 7-5.

My guess is that Ole Miss would get the Capital One bid, with LSU getting the Outback Bowl.

This is where things get really interesting because the Cotton Bowl conceivably could be left to choose from among a half-dozen 7-5 teams. Consider:

Arkansas will be 7-5 if it loses at LSU.

Auburn will be 7-5 if it loses to visiting Alabama.

Tennessee will be 7-5 if it wins at Kentucky.

Kentucky will be 7-5 it loses to Tennessee.

South Carolina will be 7-5 if it beats visiting Clemson.

Georgia will be 7-5 if it wins at Georgia Tech.

The fact Tennessee trounced Georgia (45-19) and South Carolina (31-13) head-to-head should place the Vols higher on the Cotton Bowl's list than the Dawgs and Gamecocks. The fact they would be coming off a defeat of Kentucky should give the Vols precedence over the Wildcats.

That would leave the Cotton Bowl to choose from among Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee. Since the Arlington-based bowl normally prefers SEC West teams, the Vols may need two things to happen:

One, they need for Alabama to beat Auburn convincingly on Friday.

Two, they need for LSU to beat Arkansas convincingly on Saturday.

If all of the above falls into place, Tennessee could wind up playing at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 2. Surely, the chance to showcase his program before the glut of prospects in talent-rich Texas would make Vol coach Lane Kiffin one happy guy.


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