Here are all of the SEC's bowl tie-ins, in order of significance, with Vanderbilt's prospects for playing in each one:
1. BCS: NO CHANCE. This likely will be the winner of the Alabama-Florida game playing in the national championship game.
2. BCS: NO CHANCE. This likely will be either Alabama or Florida playing in the Sugar Bowl.
3. Capital One: NO CHANCE. This is probably Georgia's game. If the Dawgs stumble to Georgia Tech, which is not outside the realm of possibility, and LSU finishes strong against Ole Miss and Arkansas, then the Tigers could geaux to this one and Georgia would fall to the Cotton.
4. Cotton: OUTSIDE CHANCE. If Vanderbilt beats Tennessee and Wake Forest to go 8-4 and 5-3 in the conference, and LSU stumbles against Ole Miss and Arkansas, losing at least one of those games, then the Commodores could be going to Dallas, where there are an awful lot of Vanderbilt alumni (the daughters of Roger Staubach and Ross Perot, to name a few). Vanderbilt would have an even better case if South Carolina lost to Clemson and if LSU dropped its last two games. But with a win in Baton Rouge, Ole Miss would be mighty attractive to the Cotton Bowl, especially with its win in Gainesville looking better and better each week, and so if all that happened the Rebels might need to lose to Miss State for the Commodores to go Cotton.
5. Outback: A BETTER CHANCE. Again, Vanderbilt would have to win out. If LSU takes care of business and secures a Cotton Bowl then it's possible that the Outback Bowl would take Vanderbilt over South Carolina, which would have a better conference record and even beat the Gamecocks head-to-head, and they might like the idea of, say, a Vanderbilt-Northwestern matchup. Call it the Brain Bowl. The Outback would be an even stronger possibility if South Carolina lost to Clemson. But if LSU loses to Ole Miss, then the Gamecocks could move up to the Cotton and LSU could slide down to the Outback or be replaced by the Rebels.
6. Chick-Fil-A: BEST BET IF VANDERBILT WINS OUT. If Vanderbilt beats Tennessee and Ole Miss, the Chick-Fil-A bowl would be a great possibility if the Commodores aren't jumping South Carolina to go to an even better bowl. The C-F-A bowl folks have said they'd like an 8-4 team from the SEC. If Vanderbilt wins out, South Carolina beats Clemson and Ole Miss beats LSU and wins out, but LSU beats Arkansas — then VU, SC, UM and LSU would all be 8-4 and one of these teams would fall to the Liberty or Music City bowls. Vanderbilt would go to the Georgia Dome with seven wins if Ole Miss lost its two remaining games, and could still go with seven wins if Ole Miss also had seven wins. There are an awful lot of Vanderbilt alumni in Atlanta. But then again, there are an awful lot of everybody's alums in Atlanta.
7. Liberty: BEST BET IF VANDERBILT DOESN'T WIN OUT. If Vanderbilt loses to either Tennessee or Wake Forest, then Ole Miss would likely get the nod from the Chick-Fil-A committee. The Liberty Bowl folks have made no secret about wanting Vanderbilt. Also, the Liberty Bowl has a slightly bigger payout than the Music City Bowl, and Vanderbilt should be more attractive than Kentucky to any bowl committee based on the Commodores' recent win over the Wildcats and their superior conference record (VU's 4-3 to UK's 2-5).
8. Music City: POSSIBLE IF VANDERBILT LOSES OUT OR WOULD RATHER STAY HOME. If Vanderbilt falls to both Tennessee and Wake Forest, and Kentucky beats Tennessee, then the Liberty Bowl might take Kentucky, which would have a better record than the Commodores. Or if Vanderbilt has a bid on the table from both the Liberty and the Music City, the Commodores could decide to stay home in Nashville and face an ACC team like Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech instead of a C-USA team like Tulsa or Houston. Or if Rice ends up winning the conference and a Liberty Bowl berth, then it's unlikely the Owls would face Vanderbilt for a second time.
9. Independence: NOT LIKELY. The Independence Bowl would be an option only if a ninth team, either Arkansas or Auburn, finished with six wins or the SEC failed to get two BCS bowl berths — and Vanderbilt lost its remaining two games and Kentucky beat Tennessee.
10. Papajohns.com: VERY, VERY UNLIKELY. All the stuff above would have to happen and hell would have to freeze over too. In reality, there won't be enough bowl-eligible teams from the SEC to fill this bowl. Have fun in Birmingham, Troy.