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Outback Bowl: Vols Look For 25th Bowl Win Against Wisconsin
Tennessee Accepts Outback Bowl Bid
Tennessee and Wisconsin are renewing football ties for the first time in 26 years when the 2008 Outback Bowl kicks off New Year’s Day in Tampa, Fla.
The Vols, winners of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and owners of a 9-4 record this season, accepted their 47th overall bowl invitation Sunday afternoon for a second consecutive Outback Bowl appearance.
“We’re thrilled to have the Volunteers back in our Outback Bowl,” said Jim McVay, Outback Bowl President/CEO. “We think we have a classic matchup with a Wisconsin Badgers team at 9-3. We were looking for this kind of a matchup -- two high-profile schools with excellent coaching staffs, great fan passion and winning football players who deserve to be playing on New Year’s Day.”
Tennessee’s trip to the west coast of Florida marks the Vols’ third appearance in the Outback Bowl. The Vols defeated Boston College 38-23 in the January 1993 game, then called the Hall of Fame Bowl, and lost 20-10 one year ago to Penn State. The win over Boston College was UT head coach Phillip Fulmer’s first game after being named permanent head coach of the Vols.
“We’re excited to be playing an outstanding football team like Wisconsin,” said Fulmer, who now in his 16th season owns a 146-45 overall record. “We’re excited about going back to Tampa. We had a great time last year, although we certainly hope to change the result.”
The Outback Bowl is celebrating its 22nd year and kicks off at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Jan. 1 in Raymond James Stadium. The game is telecast internationally on ESPN.
“The Outback Bowl represents a lot that is great about the bowl system,” UT athletics director Mike Hamilton said. “It’s an opportunity to play on Jan. 1 on a great network against a great opponent, and we look forward to our fans being there with us and representing the Tennessee Nation.”
Wisconsin, 9-3, finished fourth in the Big Ten Conference this season with a 5-3 record and makes its 19th all-time bowl appearance. The program has won nine of its last 12 bowl games, and second-year head coach Bret Bielema has begun his career with an impressive overall record of 21-4.
“We are excited about the opportunity to play Tennessee,” Bielema said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us but it should be a classic Big Ten-SEC matchup, something we’ve fared on the good side of the last two years in beating Arkansas and Auburn (2007 and 2006 Capital One bowls).”
Tennessee was the only SEC team to finish undefeated at home this season, going 7-0, but the Badgers matched that record at Camp Randall Stadium when they defeated Michigan 37-21 on Nov. 10. Wisconsin closed its season with a Nov. 17 win at Minnesota, and then accepted the Outback Bowl bid this past Wednesday.
The Vols and Badgers have met once previously in football, a 28-21 Tennessee victory in the 1981 Garden State Bowl. Played in East Rutherford, N.J., the game saw Willie Gault return a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and Steve Alatorre throw for a then-Vols bowl record 315 passing yards.
Tickets to the Outback Bowl are $65 each and fans can order online starting tonight at the UTSports.com Web site. Phone and over-the-counter sales begin Monday at the Thompson-Boling Arena ticket office from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Fans may order by dialing 656-1200 for local calls and 800-332-VOLS (8657) from outside the Knoxville area.
Travel packages are available through Dodd’s Travel at doddsathletictours.com/tennessee.
The Vols are the designated home team in this year’s game and will wear their orange jerseys.
Series History and Notes
Tennessee and Wisconsin have met just once previously on the gridiron, and that matchup was also of the bowl variety. The Volunteers defeated the Badgers 28-21 in the Garden State Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., on Dec. 13, 1981. That win capped UT’s 1981 season with an 8-4 mark under head coach Johnny Majors.
Tennessee owns a 6-5 all-time bowl record against current members of the Big Ten Conference. The Vols have posted bowl victories over Wisconsin (1981 Garden State Bowl), Minnesota (1986 Liberty Bowl), Indiana (1988 Peach Bowl), Ohio State (1996 Florida Citrus Bowl), Northwestern (1997 Florida Citrus Bowl) and Michigan (2002 Florida Citrus Bowl).
Tennessee’s five Big Ten bowl setbacks have come against Purdue (1979 Bluebonnet Bowl), Iowa (1982 Peach Bowl) and Penn State (1992 Fiesta Bowl, 1994 Florida Citrus Bowl and 2007 Outback Bowl).
UT’s overall record against current members of the Big Ten is 9-5. Phillip Fulmer’s record against current members of the Big Ten Conference is 3-2, with lone victories over Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State (all in bowl games).
UT Makes 47th Bowl Appearance; Tied for Fourth in Bowl Wins
Tennessee’s New Year’s Day date with Wisconsin marks its 47th all-time bowl appearance. That total ranks second nationally to Alabama, which is set to play in its 55th all-time bowl game.
The Volunteers rank tied for fourth nationally in terms of all-time bowl wins. Only Alabama (30), Southern California (29) and Penn State (25) have more bowl triumphs. Tennessee and Oklahoma both boast 24 bowl victories.
Vols Lead FBS in Sacks Allowed: Ainge Sacked Three Times
Tennessee’s offensive line has allowed just four sacks this season, and just three against starting quarterback Erik Ainge. Overall, the Vols have attempted 491 passes, meaning UT’s opponents are averaging one sack in every 122.8 attempts.
The Big Orange lead the nation (FBS) in sacks allowed, giving up less than a third of a sack per game (0.31).
Prior to a fourth-quarter sack by South Carolina against Ainge back on Oct. 27, the senior had attempted 290 straight passes without being sacked. His only other sacks this year came during the season-opener at Cal (in what would have been his third attempt of the game/season) and on an intentional grounding penalty at Kentucky on Nov. 24.
Wisconsin ranks tied for 39th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten with 2.33 sacks per game.
Tennessee Lands Seven on Coaches' All-SEC Team
Tennessee landed three players on the 2007 Coaches All-SEC first team and another four on the second team, the league office announced Dec. 4. Four of the honorees were juniors, with one senior and a pair of freshmen selected as well.
Left guard Anthony Parker made the first-team offensive line, while middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was among the top linebackers named and free safety Jonathan Hefney—UT’s lone senior honoree—was a member of the first-team secondary unit.
Second-team representatives were weakside linebacker Rico McCoy, punter Britton Colquitt, true freshman strong safety Eric Berry and redshirt freshman placekicker Daniel Lincoln.
Hefney and Colquitt are repeat selections from a year ago, although Hefney was a second-team choice in 2006 and Colquitt earned first-team honors. McCoy was a member of last season’s Freshman All-SEC squad.
Tennessee’s seven honorees trailed only LSU with 10 and Arkansas and Florida with eight apiece. The Vols’ three first team selections were behind only LSU’s seven and four apiece from Alabama and Arkansas.
Ainge Breaks UT's Single-Season Completions Record
Erik Ainge threw 20 completions against LSU in the SEC Championship Game to break Peyton Manning’s single-season school record of 287 set in 1997. Ainge has 300 completions heading into the Outback Bowl.
Ainge’s 243 completions as a junior last year currently rank fifth in school history, and his 708 career completions rank third.
Tennessee Seeking Its 20th 10-Win Season
One more victory this season gives Tennessee its 20th all-time 10-win campaign, with the first one coming during UT’s perfect 11-0 year in 1938.
Under head coach Phillip Fulmer, the Vols have won at least 10 games eight times.
Fulmer’s eight 10-win seasons are the most by any head coach at the University of Tennessee. The legendary Gen. Robert R. Neyland is second with five 10-win campaigns.
Freshman All-America Berry Gains National Recognition
One of the nation’s most highly sought-after recruits a year ago, true freshman Eric Berry has started all 13 games this season and is currently fourth on the team with 83 tackles.
Lincoln Earns Football Writers' All-America Acclaim
The legend-laden wall inside UT’s Neyland Thompson Sports Center will soon include a current Vols standout, as redshirt freshman placekicker Daniel Lincoln earned first team All-America honors this season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
The aforementioned wall includes posed action photos of every Vol to ever earn first-team All-America laurels. Lincoln bring the total to 71, dating to 1929.
Lincoln is the 16th Vol to earn first-team All-America recognition under 16th-year head coach Phillip Fulmer.
Lincoln is UT’s first All-America placekicker since John Becksvoort in 1993.