KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A day after a disappointing 21-14 loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game to LSU, Tennessee received a bid to play Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1.
"We think we have a classic matchup," Outback Bowl President and CEO Jim McVay said during a teleconference. "We were looking for this kind of matchup, two high-profile schools, very winning, deserving football players."
Tennessee (9-4) fell to No. 16 after the loss while Wisconsin (9-3) moved up to No. 18.
"We're excited about playing an outstanding football team like Wisconsin," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We're excited about being able to go back to Tampa."
The Badgers traveled to the Capital One Bowl last season, winning 17-14 over Arkansas, which had lost earlier to Florida in the SEC championship game. Quarterback John Stocco threw two touchdowns in the first half, and Wisconsin withstood the Razorbacks' attempts at a comeback.
"We've got our work cut out for us, but it should be a classic Big-10-SEC matchup, something we've fared on the good side of the last couple of years," Bielema said.
An Outback bid might have surprised Tennessee fans midseason after the Vols lost early games to California, Florida and Alabama by a combined 77 points.
But the Vols rebounded by winning five straight games, including dramatic overtime wins over South Carolina and Kentucky and a fourth-quarter comeback victory over Vanderbilt.
It's a chance for the Vols to set their Outback Bowl record straight after last year's 20-10 loss to unranked Penn State. The loss for then-No. 17 Tennessee marred what was supposed to be the program's comeback after going 5-6 in 2005.
A fumble by Tennessee running back Arian Foster was recovered by Penn State's Tony Davis, who ran the ball 88 yards for a touchdown and a 17-10 lead.
"I expected us to play much better than we did," Fulmer said. "Basically we were going in to win the football game and there was a 14-point swing and we lost the football game."
Tennessee and Wisconsin have faced each other only once before. The Badgers won the 1981 Garden State Bowl 28-21, when Fulmer was the defensive line coach of the Vols and Bielema was 11 years old.
Phillip Fulmer's first win as head coach came in Tampa during the 1993 Hall of Fame Bowl, the predecessor of the Outback. when the Vols beat Boston College 38-23 behind the leadership of quarterback Heath Shuler.