TAMPA - While both Tennessee and Wisconsin players and coaches certainly are glad game day is finally here, the Volunteers might be a little more psyched for today's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
Tennessee finally will get a chance to erase the bad memories of last year's 20-10 Outback Bowl loss to Penn State. Vols coach Phillip Fulmer, speaking at a news conference Monday at the Quorum Hotel, said that loss is still a tough one to swallow.
"It's hard to get last year out of our craw, to be honest with you. We came down and actually prepared very well. I was really pleased with how we went about our business and our preparation. We did not play as well in the game as we had prepared, and that was frustrating," Fulmer said.
He has said numerous times in recent days how he's again been pleased with the Vols preparation in Tampa, specifically how they've maintained a business-like attitude despite the multitude of distractions surrounding his team, including eventual coaching departures and academic issues for six players.
Fulmer said he reminded his team of what happened in last year's bowl game, and added that many of his players, particularly his seniors, were happy to be back at the Outback Bowl this year with an opportunity to right the ship.
SAY GOODNIGHT: At the stroke of midnight when the New Year arrived, the Wisconsin Badgers were - at least by plan - fast asleep.
"I learned this one two years ago; I just basically told our team bed check is 11 o'clock," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "You'll wake up today feeling 95 percent better than most of the people in the world. There are a lot of people that will go out and break curfew and not feel so good tomorrow. The disadvantage of being a good football team is you miss Christmas and miss New Year's."
Tennessee senior DL Xavier Mitchell said Sunday the Vols' curfew on New Year's Eve was 10:30 p.m.
NO PLAYOFF: While the pros and cons of a college football playoff system continue to make a hot topic for debate, Bielema used Sunday's final day of the NFL regular-season, where a number of games had no effect on the playoffs, as a reason to leave well enough alone.
"I can't understand the concept of a meaningless game," he said. "You teach people how to win. From my point of view I would never want to see a playoff system for one reason: I just enjoy the bowl system too much. I can understand the plus-one possibility, but I would never want to go down that playoff road personally."
RECORD WATCH: Tennessee junior RB Arian Foster could move into the record books today with a big game against the Badgers.
Foster has 1,593 all-purpose yards (1,162 rushing, 314 receiving, 117 kickoff returns) this season and needs just 129 all-purpose yards to break Reggie Cobb's program mark of 1,721 all-purpose yards in 1987. Foster has averaged 122.5 all-purpose yards per game this season.
Also, Tennessee FS Jonathan Hefney is scheduled to make his 50th career start today, which would be tops all-time in program history among position players. Hefney is currently tied with former OL and current Green Bay Packer Scott Wells (2000-03) with 49 career starts.
In addition, Vols senior TE Chris Brown needs one touchdown reception to tie the single-season program mark of seven set in 1966 by Austin Denney. Brown, with 40 receptions this season, already set the single-season program mark this season in that category with two receptions in the SEC Championship game, breaking the former record of 39 set by current Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Jason Witten in 2002.
VOLS COACH SEARCH: There wasn't much news to report on potential coaching replacements for outgoing offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe and outgoing receivers coach Trooper Taylor.
Fulmer said Monday he's had a few conversations this week with potential coaching additions. Cutcliffe recently accepted the head coaching job at Duke, and Taylor recently accepted the co-offensive coordinator job at Oklahoma State.
Fulmer added he's been getting a lot of help from assistant athletics director for football operations Bruce Warwick, who recently turned down a chance to join Texas A&M's staff in a less-publicized potential change within the program, Fulmer said. He said his focus will be shifted to filling those positions shortly after today's game.
"I have a real full schedule once we get back to Knoxville, starting on the Jan. 3 all the way through several days to finish up what we need to finish up," Fulmer said.
ODDS AND ENDS: Tennessee is 9-5 all-time against opponents from the Big Ten, including a 1-0 mark against Wisconsin. The only previous meeting between the Vols and Badgers came in the 1981 Garden State Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., a 28-21 UT victory. ... Wisconsin's all-time mark against SEC opponents in bowl games is 2-5, but the Badgers have won the last two meetings: Capital One Bowl wins against Auburn (2006) and Arkansas (2007).