Tennessee vs. North Carolina: Music City Bowl or Iron(y) Bowl?

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Tennessee vs. North Carolina: Music City Bowl or Iron(y) Bowl?
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Junior RB Tauren Poole

When the Music City matchup of Tennessee vs. North Carolina was officially confirmed on Sunday my immediate reaction was laughter. Why laughter?

Shortly before the season began, in mid-August, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton made the difficult move to actually cancel a future home-and-away series with none other than the North Carolina Tar Heels. 

The Vols were set to travel to Chapel Hill next season with the series returning to Neyland Stadium in 2012. 

When Hamilton made the move it was not exactly taken lightly by many Tennessee fans or the national media. At the time, I thought it was a chicken move and suggested the Vols move to the ACC or fire Hamilton. (Overreaction much?)

National writers chimed in wondering how a mighty SEC program would cancel a series with an ACC program because it might prove too difficult for a rebuilding Tennessee team. 

Some thought the move was necessary given the future difficulties that were sure to be experienced by Derek Dooley in his first couple of seasons after taking over the reeling Vols program in January. 

In hindsight, it probably wasn't a bad idea to cancel the series. Tennessee gained an eighth home game (Buffalo) in a season that it will play Florida, Alabama, Arkansas on the road and Georgia, LSU, South Carolina at home. 

Vols AD Mike Hamilton

Now, four months later, the Vols are about to begin preparations for a bowl game against the Tar Heels. 

Back in August there weren't many college football observers who believed that these Vols would even be playing in a bowl game. There weren't even a lot of Tennessee fans who believed it. 

Fans knew 2010 would be a rough ride after head coach Lane Kiffin bolted for USC in January, leaving the Tennessee program looking to hire its second coach in two years just two weeks before National Signing Day. 

Another undefeated November and a quarterback with a bright future later, the Vols made it to six wins and a 2010 bowl game that Hamilton referred to as "mission critical" back in August. 

The fact that this game will be played against UNC is incredibly ironic. 

This Tar Heels team looked a lot more formidable in August. Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, and Greg Little were three guys who looked like certain NFL draftees coming into the season. Those three have not played a down in 2010 as a result of their contact with an agent. All three were eventually kicked off the team. 

In all, 15 players were held out of action in North Carolina's opener against LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game in September. Most of those players have since been reinstated after varying suspensions limited their time on the field in 2010. 

The Tar Heels went from a potential ACC championship team to the Music City Bowl and the Vols went from 'just be respectable' to an in-state bowl that has wanted Tennessee for quite some time. All of this after Tennessee cancelled a series with UNC to reduce the future load on its reeling program. 

It is the ultimate irony and it should result in a great game come December 30 at 6:40pm eastern. 

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