ATLANTA — It's a new era for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Atlanta-based postseason matchup that has traditionally featured the ACC and SEC will transition into the group of six bowls in the College Football Playoff rotation following the 2014 season and host its first national semifinal following the 2016 season.
With that comes a facelift of sorts.
The new era has brought the bowl back to the future. It was announced on Monday that the Chick-fil-A Bowl has brought back its old moniker and will be known as the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl starting in 2014.
"This not only represents the beginning of our new era in the College Football Playoff, but a reconnection to our history and tradition by bringing the peach back into our name," Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan said. "Chick-fil-A's agreement with ESPN and the Bowl allows us to continue a 17-year relationship regarded as one of the most successful in the industry."
The best could be yet to come.
The elevation to the group of six CFP bowls, along with the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Cotton, has not only solidified the event as one of the top-tier postseason bowls in the country, but the city of Atlanta as the capital of the college football world.
The success of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which boasts 17 straight sellouts, coupled with the creation of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (or games) over Labor Day weekend and the move of the College Football Hall of Fame—which is scheduled to open this summer—to the city, has transformed Atlanta to a destination location for college football fans.
What's the next step?
A national title game, of course.
North Texas, Phoenix and Tampa are slated to host the first three national title games following the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively. But when the next rounds of proposals are due, which should be sometime next January, expect Atlanta to be vying for that game following the 2017 season.
Not coincidentally, that will be the year that the new Atlanta Falcons stadium opens just south of the Georgia Dome.
"We're going to go after, bid for and successfully win the national championship game," Stokan said. "We are going to bring it to Atlanta hopefully in January of 2018 when we're in the new stadium."
While the College Football Playoff expects to receive bids from several cities, the momentum the city of Atlanta has been generating over the last decade in the college football world is hard to ignore.
"Anytime you can continue the string that Atlanta's currently on of bringing major events to the marketplace—the Final Four got such rave reviews—and everything they've done with college football then what the team has done here, it gives us confidence that they're going to put together a formidable bid," College Football Playoff COO Michael Kelly said. "Combined with the Atlanta Falcons and the new stadium, it will make it very attractive."
Despite the momentum, there will be challengers lining up to win the bid when it's released.
"We had eight cities that competed for this last rotation," Kelly said. "We expect Atlanta and somebody else to come on board. It'll be a fierce competition, but you have to like the assets that Atlanta is putting forward."
Bringing back the "Peach" moniker just in time for its inclusion into the College Football Playoff semifinal rotation isn't a coincidence.
"We did make it a condition, as part of them coming into the playoff rotation, was to have some consistency and that all of our bowls have a base moniker," Kelly said.
Stokan's goal when he started with the bowl in 1998 was to get the bowl into the BCS. While technically that didn't happen, he did get it into "BCS 2.0" in the College Football Playoff. That momentum will likely carry it to the next logical goal.
"Atlanta's just on a roll right now," Kelly said.
A roll that seems to be headed straight for a title game.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.
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