CHARLOTTESVILLE, NOV. 7 -- The No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers, whose dreams of a national championship and an undefeated season were quashed by Georgia Tech last weekend, are expected to play in the Fiesta Bowl unless they receive an unanticipated offer from the Sugar Bowl.

Officials from Virginia indicated today that an informal agreement with "a bowl" could come as early as Sunday. Fiesta Bowl sources said Virginia told committee members earlier this week that it did not feel it would receive an invitation to the Sugar Bowl -- which pays $3.25 million per team, $750,000 more than the Fiesta -- and therefore would accept a Fiesta Bowl bid. Official bowl invitations cannot be extended until Nov. 24.

Fiesta Bowl officials indicated that Virginia, Penn State, Miami and Notre Dame are the leading contenders to play in the Tempe, Ariz., game. But since Notre Dame and Miami also could play in the Orange -- against the Big Eight champion, likely Colorado -- or Sugar bowls, Virginia (7-1, 4-1 ACC) has become the top candidate.

"If there's any way we can put Virginia in our bowl, we're going to use our best shot to do it." said Don Meyers, head of the Fiesta Bowl selection committee.

No. 21 Penn State (6-2) has remaining games with Maryland, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. Virginia defeated Penn State, 14-6, last season.

Virginia finished 10-2 last year and made its first appearance in a New Year's Day bowl, losing to Illinois, 31-21, in the Citrus Bowl. The ACC champion -- most likely Georgia Tech -- receives an automatic bid to the Citrus this year. Virginia still could win the conference by defeating North Carolina and Maryland, coupled with a Georgia Tech loss.

With Colorado the likely entrant in the Orange, Big Eight rival Nebraska is expected to accept an invitation to the Citrus.

"Right now, the bowl picture is really complex," said Virginia Athletic Director Jim Copeland. "There's still a lot of football left to be played. It looks good for us for a New Year's Day game."

"There's so much talk about bowls, I'm not going to not talk about it," said Virginia Coach George Welsh. "I'd like to think we could win the rest of our games, be 10-1. . . . Anybody would be interested in the Fiesta Bowl: great city, nice climate. We'd like to be in a January 1 bowl game."