A few notes regarding Georgia Tech’s bowl date with Southern California Dec. 31 at the Sun Bowl.
1. It’s the third time that Tech has played in the same bowl in consecutive years. The first two times were the Sugar Bowl to finish the 1952 and 1953 seasons. On the first trip, Tech beat Mississippi 24-7 to complete a 12-0 season and win a share of the national championship. That team, you may remember, was honored earlier this season. The next year, Tech won the Sugar Bowl again, 42-19 over West Virginia.
The other instance was back-to-back trips to the Gator Bowl at the end of the 1998 and 1999 seasons, a 35-28 win over Notre Dame (Tech’s fifth bowl-game win in a row; Joe Hamilton had 356 yards of total offense) and a 28-13 defeat to Miami.
2. The bowl game brings together a matchup that was almost put together for the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan had coach Paul Johnson and then-athletic director Dan Radakovich on board, as well as USC coach Lane Kiffin, but talks dried up when USC AD Mike Garrett was fired and replaced by Pat Haden.
Incidentally, I had a poster of Haden, then a L.A. Rams quarterback, on my wall as a child. I think my parents have thrown it away. No disrespect to Mr. Haden, but I find it a curious choice for a child growing up in suburban Chicago. I also had Earl Campbell, Ken Burroughs and Walter Payton, among others.
Back to Stokan. I talked to him a couple weeks ago, and asked about the possibility of Tech playing in the kickoff game, a popular topic among fans, it seems. He said he’s booked through 2014, but is going to start looking to fill dates in 2015-16-17. He noted that Notre Dame planning to begin its series of five games with ACC teams in 2014, that could create some possibilities with Tech or other teams in the ACC.
Nothing, though, is imminent.
3. This will be USC’s first bowl after its two-year bowl ban. Said Trojans coach Lane Kiffin, “It’s very exciting, especially after two years of sitting at home and not being able to go to a bowl game.”
4. I’m not sure we’ll ever get the full story, but the possibility of Tech dropping past the Sun Bowl never materialized, obviously. Tech officials, as I’ve noted, were open to the idea, both because they figured the Sun Bowl might want a different team and coaches and players might prefer a new destination.
Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas said Sunday night that the bowl decided to honor the contract obligating it to take the ACC runner-up if available. Interestingly, the El Paso Times reported last week that there was also another clause in the contract that allowed the Sun Bowl to avoid picking a team in consecutive years, but Olivas wasn’t sure which rule took precedence.
Water under the bridge.
5. The Sun Bowl had the third pick of Pac-12 teams after the BCS games. Stanford will be in the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl picked up Oregon. After that, the Alamo Bowl took Oregon State (9-3) and the Holiday Bowl chose UCLA (9-4). The Sun chose between Arizona (7-5) and USC (7-5).
6. Due to the extended season, Tech players won’t have much time to recuperate. A year ago, the team took a week off before beginning practice the day after the announcement Dec. 5. The Jackets won’t practice Monday or Tuesday, but could begin shortly thereafter.
Tech can practice 15 times between now and the bowl game. Starting Wednesday, that’s a 25-day window until the 29th, the last day that the team would practice. Final exams run Dec. 10-14, all of next week. It’s conceivable Tech would not use all 15 practices. USC coach Lane Kiffin said he figured his team would practice 13 to 15 times and start Wednesday.
7. There’s nothing up on the Tech website about bowl tickets yet. I imagine something will be posted soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog