Conference championship weekend provided a shake up to the College Football Playoff race but no certainty to Tennessee football’s bowl destination.
The weekend’s games of significance as it pertains to Tennessee’s bowl destination and opponent were Utah’s win over USC, Kansas State’s win over TCU and Clemson’s win over North Carolina.
Utah’s Friday night victory against USC in the Pac 12 Championship game moved Ohio State back in the playoffs and ended the potential Big 10 power play that would have sent Penn State to the Rose Bowl, Ohio State to the Orange Bowl and Tennessee to the Cotton Bowl.
Right when Tennessee seemed Orange Bowl bound, Kansas State handed TCU its lone loss of the season in overtime of the Big 12 Championship game.
So, what does it all mean for Tennessee’s bowl destination?
If TCU (12-1) remains in the top four and makes the College Football Playoff, Tennessee will face Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl kicks off on Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. ET.
If the committee instead puts Alabama (10-2) in the playoffs, Tennessee will face Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl kicks off on Dec. 31 at noon ET.
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Why does the final playoff team have such consequence on Tennessee’s bowl destination? The highest ranked SEC team not in the CFP plays in the Sugar Bowl every year due to the bowl game’s contract.
With Alabama in the final playoff spot, Tennessee (which will likely move up a spot to No. 6 in the final rankings) will be the highest ranked SEC team and will face Big 12 Champion Kansas State.
With TCU landing in the playoffs over the Crimson Tide, Alabama goes to the Sugar Bowl. The Orange Bowl — whose contract states the bowl game must take the ACC Champion and the highest ranked power five team not in the playoff, Rose or Sugar Bowl — hosts Tennessee and Clemson.
ESPN will reveal the final College Football Playoff rankings and New Years Six bowl destinations at noon ET Sunday.