Put some Chick-fil-A on the table, and Tennessee football fans will scarf it up.
Volunteers fans already have purchased all 17,000 tickets the school was allotted for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech on Dec. 31. Tennessee went 7-5 in the regular season after finishing 5-7 and missing out on a bowl last year.
"I think it's an indicator of the excitement around the program, and I also think it's an indication obviously that Atlanta is a good place for us," Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said Tuesday. "We've normally done well when we've played there, whether it's an SEC championship game or the bowl, in relation to ticket sales. I told the bowl reps our fans were excited about this team and would travel well, and I think this is an indication that was correct."
Tennessee is among a record 10 Southeastern Conference schools going to bowl games, and most are off to excellent starts in ticket sales. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU and Ole Miss also have sold out of their respective allotments or expect to by the end of the week.
Alabama not only sold all 19,000 tickets for the BCS championship game Jan. 7 against Texas but announced Tuesday that Jan. 6-8 classes have been canceled so faculty, staff and students could trek to Pasadena, Calif. Arkansas fans had purchased 15,000 Liberty Bowl tickets and LSU fans had bought 12,000 Capital One Bowl tickets before those invitations became official this past Sunday.
Georgia director of ticket operations Tim Cearley said Tuesday that more than 4,500 tickets for the Dec. 28 Independence Bowl against Texas A&M have either been bought or set aside for administration, families of players or band members. The Bulldogs, whose 7-5 record is the worst in Mark Richt's nine seasons, were allotted 12,000 tickets.
"Considering the economic situation and the geographic location, I think the response has been good," Cearley said. "It remains to be seen how many more we will get. The initial response obviously isn't as high as it's been in previous years, but it's not exactly a shock considering the economic situation, where it's located and probably our overall team record as well."
The Bulldogs used about 11,000 tickets of a 12,000 allotment to last season's Capital One Bowl, which followed a loss to Georgia Tech. After closing with six straight wins in 2007, Georgia was allotted 17,500 tickets to the Sugar Bowl but requested more and wound up selling 24,500.
Georgia Tech, which won the ACC championship by defeating Clemson last Saturday, has an allotment of 17,500 Orange Bowl tickets and had sold nearly half by Tuesday afternoon.
The greatest success story in terms of ticket sales so far is the Gator Bowl, which sold out Monday. That will mark Bobby Bowden's final game after 34 seasons as Florida State coach when his Seminoles face West Virginia, a program he coached from 1970 to '75.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart won the Broyles Award on Tuesday as the nation's top college football assistant. He was asked by an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter at the ceremony in Little Rock about the vacancy at Georgia, his alma mater, but didn't offer much to affirm or reject the speculation.
"I haven't really thought about it, to be honest," Smart said. "All I've done since the game against Florida is get ready and go recruit. I'm happy at Alabama and my wife's happy at Alabama. We're not looking to go anywhere."