Formerly known as the Peach Bowl, this game has evolved to become a premiere postseason destination for both the ACC and SEC.
Attendance figures have soared since the conference affiliations were established in 1992, holding at more than 70,000 over that time. ESPN typically reserves a prime time slot on New Year’s Eve. And, not surprisingly, the money has followed, with the payouts for the Chick-fil-A recently exceeding $6 million to make it the most lucrative bowl outside of the five BCS behemoths.
Who will cash in at the Georgia Dome this season?
Assuming Auburn denies South Carolina a BCS slot with a win at this weekend’s SEC Championship, Mississippi State would be the logical choice to represent the conference, which places this bowl game sixth in its selection order. Conversely, the ACC places the Chick-fil-A behind only the Orange Bowl among its bowl tie-ins, meaning the loser of the conference title game between Virginia Tech and Florida State will punch its ticket to Atlanta.
For the sake of this article’s required brevity, let’s assume that ACC team is Virginia Tech.
Are Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs capable of competing with a Tech team that, after an unceremonious 0-2 start, will have won 10 of its next 11?
By all accounts, Mississippi State is a battle-tested squad. All four of its losses have come against ranked opponents (Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas), so facing the 10-3 Hokies would be far from intimidating. Plus, MSU boasts the nation’s 17th-ranked rushing offense, which should complement the Hokies’ ability (or lack thereof) to stop the run, which ranks 70th nationally.
As methodical as the Bulldog offense is, the defense has a hard time getting off the field. Mississippi State allows a respectable 20.3 points a game, but Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor should be able to generate plenty on the ground and through the air against a unit that surrenders an average of nearly 360 yards.
Oh, and those special teams, which for so long have been the X-factor with so many Frank Beamer teams. Can the Hokies exploit MSU’s units, which rank 45th and 53rd in kicking and punting, respectively?