The Meaning of 25

The Meaning of 25

Tennessee enters Saturday night's regular season finale holding a 24 game winning streak over the University of Kentucky. What exactly does this streak mean to Tennessee fans? Go "Inside" to get our take on how important this match-up really is for the Volunteers.

The last time Kentucky beat Tennessee was in 1984, a whole 24 straight meetings between the teams ago.

Back when the Ghostbusters were capturing the box-office, Wham was electrifying MTV and the Oakland Raiders were still in Los Angeles, winning a Super Bowl over the Washington Redskins none the less.

The stunning 17-12 Wildcat victory in Neyland Stadium, now a story of lore in Lexington, seems more mythic and far away every year for the fans in blue.

It is currently the longest active winning streak between two college football teams in the nation, with Tennessee leading the all-time series 72-23-9.

Tennessee (6-5, 3-4) comes into Kentucky (7-4, 3-4) playing for a higher bowl bid, which to Head Coach Lane Kiffin means extended national media coverage of his glorified rebuilding of the Tennessee program.

Kentucky is also dreaming of bowl bids, as the Wildcats have already solidified their fourth consecutive bowl appearance, a first for a program looking to further upgrade their bowl location and payout.

"We are playing a team where their seniors have been to more bowl games than our seniors," Lane Kiffin noted on Tuesday during media day in Knoxville. "We would love to keep it (streak) alive only because it is the next game on our schedule and we want to win it and it is a big-time SEC game for us."

Last year Kentucky defeated East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl 25-19, while the Volunteer football team spent the bowl season eating holiday hams.

Last week Tennessee solidified a bowl bid with a 31-16 home win over Vanderbilt, a massive relief for Volunteer fans hungry to get back to post season successes.

The magnitude of Tennessee's bowl game for 2009-2010 will come under question until the final score of this Kentucky game is settled.

A loss would drop the Vols to 6-6, a record that typically sends SEC teams to the Independence, Music City, or Liberty Bowls.

The most recent payouts for those three bowls range between $1.1 million (Independence) and $1.7 million (Liberty).

The Liberty Bowl matches up an SEC participant with the Conference-USA winner, which is a deserving opponent, however lacks the attention of an opponent from a major conference.

The Independence (Big 12) and Music City (ACC) offer major conference opponents, however they will be ones who have enjoyed mediocre seasons similar to Tennessee's in the SEC, such as projected teams Iowa State and Boston College.

Mediocre opponents always lead to mediocre national coverage.

Only the Liberty Bowl follows New Year's Day, which offers extensive preparation time for the teams, as well as enlarged media coverage and audiences of the final stretch of the bowl season.

A win in Lexington could give the Volunteers a serious upgrade in the bowl department, putting them at 7-5 and positioned to land in the Chick-fil-A, Outback or Cotton Bowl.

Recent payouts for those games sit between $2.4 million (Chick-fil-A) and $3 million (Cotton & Outback).

The opponents UT could face in those three bowls reign from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, three prominent conferences that fight SEC schools in recruiting season each year.

Some of the projected opponents for those three games are, in the same order, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State.

The Volunteers and Wildcats are both positioned to fall or climb the bowl ladder on the same steps.

A win will put either team at least two games above .500 and offer a much deeper consideration for committee members on bowl selection day, Sunday December 6.

Wildcat fans are starving for revenge and want nothing more than to feast on a banged up Volunteer team on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Tennessee faithful are dreaming of a return to prominence, with a first-year head coach looking to capture headlines with a significant bowl win and a much needed sign of a brighter future at Rocky Top.

Either way, 25 has never seemed so big for these two teams.

Tennessee and Kentucky face off at 7 ET, televised coverage provided by ESPNU.

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