11/28 – Heading into Selection Sunday
Rivalry week certainly did not disappoint as fans from across the country had a host of compelling and exciting games literally all day long. What a great way to end the regular season in the ACC and SEC!
So there you have it. The schedules are complete and all that remains is the ACC and SEC Championship Games on Saturday with a BCS bowl berth on the line for the ACC and a probable national championship game appearance up for grabs in the SEC.
In our Team Selection Committee meeting Monday night, we took a good long look at each of our potential teams’ seasons and their body of work. Our goal, as always, is to find the two teams available to us who are most deserving of a Chick-fil-A Bowl selection. After a lengthy discussion, one thing was clear: we have a lot of great options and are sure to have a great match-up no matter which way we end up going.
Here’s a final look at our short list in each conference with some final thoughts on each team.
In the ACC (in alphabetical order)
Despite the slip up against rival South Carolina, the Tigers finished at 10-2 (7-1 ACC) with a #14 national ranking. This marks the 9th time Clemson has recorded a 10+ win season and this year’s squad was certainly fun to watch. Of note this year was the Tigers’ 7-game winning streak, their nationally sixth-ranked scoring offense at 42.3 points per game and the stand-out play of quarterback Tajh Boyd who threw for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns. We’re sure the BCS will hold Clemson through Sunday for possible selection by a BCS bowl, but if they are available for us, there is a strong case to be made for Clemson heading back to Atlanta to go bowling.
The #13 Seminoles certainly earned their right to face Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship for a shot at the Orange Bowl. This is another elite team that performed on both sides of the ball all year. At 10-2 (7-1 ACC), Florida State was ranked as high as #3 this season with two 5-game winning streaks. Their only two losses were to NC State and the #4 Gators. And not only did FSU put up big numbers offensively at 41.5 per game, but they only gave up 15.1 per game giving them top-10 rankings in BOTH offense and defense. If the ‘Noles don’t play in the Orange Bowl, their body of work will demand that we give them serious consideration this year as well.
A third team from the Atlantic worth considering is the 7-5 Wolfpack. The marquee win over Florida State showed us what this team is capable of when they are clicking on all cylinders. Mike Glennon is a star with 3,648 passing yards and 30 touchdowns and they have emerging players at wide receiver and tailback that can make this a really exciting team to watch. We’ll keep them on the board this week until we know how the BCS bowls will shake out.
In the SEC (in alphabetical order)
Another incredible 10-win season turned in by the Tigers (10-2, 6-2 SEC) and a #7 national ranking while competing in the toughest division in football. Les Miles has proven again that he is an elite coach and that LSU is among the top programs in the nation year-in and year-out. Relying on one of the nation’s top defensive units, LSU earned wins against teams ranked #3, #18 and #21 and their only two losses came against the then-#1 Crimson Tide and the now #4 Florida Gators. Finishing the year by winning 5 of their last 6 games, the Tigers have earned a big-time bowl destination and it’s possible that reward will come in the form of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
With the Bulldogs, it was a tale of two seasons. Mississippi State started off on an incredible 7-game winning streak and found their way up to #11 in the polls. Then came the gauntlet of playing in the SEC West with three straight games against top-ranked opponents (#1 Alabama, #16 Texas A&M, #7 LSU). That stretch was followed by a big win against Arkansas and a tough loss to a much-improved Ole Miss team on the road. At the end of the day, the Bulldogs turned in a great season in an incredibly tough division in the SEC. At 8-4, this is definitely a team we will consider while making our SEC selection this year.
The Head Ball Coach has done it again and has put his team in position as one of the elite teams in the SEC. At 10-2 (6-2 SEC) and ranked #10, the Gamecocks reached as high as #3 in the polls following a 6-0 start before losses to #9 LSU and #2 Florida. Add in big-time wins against SEC East champion Georgia and their rival, #11 Clemson, on the road and you have a team worthy of just about any bowl that can get their hands on the Gamecocks. This will be a sought-after team and if they are available to us, their body of work will demand we give them a good look to match against a top team from the ACC.
The #9 Aggies have certainly announced their presence in the SEC in a big way. With a 10-2 (6-2 SEC) mark and an epic win against then-#1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa to their credit, Texas A&M looks right at home among the best of the best. Add to that two 5-game, winning streaks and the fact that their only two losses were against the now #4 and #7 teams and the star power of Heisman hopeful Johnny Manziel and you have a potential selection that has more than earned its spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl – if they would be available to us.
The Commodores finished the year as one of the hottest teams in the SEC winning six straight and 7 of their last 8 games. That streak and their decisive win against Wake Forest on the road will earn them a spot on our short list this week and will put them on our final board on Selection Sunday. Coach Franklin has made his mark on the Vandy program with an 8-4 mark this year and there are certainly good days ahead for this team – including a chance the Vandy Nation may Anchor Down in Atlanta.
Special Note:The final thing to consider would be our role to protect the runner-up in the SEC Championship Game that could see either Georgia or Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Bowl this year. Again, not very likely, but something to consider.
In our final media predictions for this year's game, projections include:
ESPN (Schlabach): Clemson vs. LSU
ESPN (Edwards): Clemson vs. Georgia
CBS Sports: Clemson vs. LSU
College Football News: Clemson vs. Georgia
Sports Illustrated: Clemson vs. LSU
Remember to follow us on Twitter (@chickfilabowl) to stay up to date on Bowl activities through the team selection process and Bowl Week. Lots of great photos and tidbits from behind the scenes!
Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets are getting scarce! Fewer than 500 tickets remain as of Nov. 28, so if you think your team is headed here, you need to purchase now before we reach our 16th straight sellout. By the time we name the teams, the tickets will be all but gone. To order tickets, call 404-586-8499 or visit our online ticket store: http://www.chick-fil-abowl.com/Tickets/BowlGameTickets.aspx
Thanks to our partner conference and all the ACC and SEC teams for another memorable season. We are in a fortunate position and feel we can’t go wrong with any of these options and are very much looking forward to another great bowl season capped off by the 45th annual Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.
We hope to see you here.