Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Dec. 31, 7:30 pm
Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)
Line: Auburn -3
Originally known as the Peach Bowl, this game dates back to 1968 when LSU defeated Florida State 31-27 for a total bowl payout of $460,000. By 2011, the Peach has morphed into the Chick-fil-A Bowl with a payout that has grown 14-times the original payout, to nearly $7 million.
The 44th edition of the Chick-fil-A Bowl will match Virginia (8-4, 5-3 ACC) against Auburn (7-5, 4-4 SEC) on the eve of 2012.
Making This All Possible
Akin to the Chick-fil-A Bowl; Chick-fil-A itself began under a different name, Dwarf House. The first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened a year prior to Peach Bowl; 1967 in Atlanta, Georgia. Known most notably as a southern-chain, Chick-fil-a has ballooned out to 39 different states and now has over 1,600 locations nationwide.
Get to know: Virginia
Virginia’s 2011 appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl marks the program’s fourth time in this game (1984, 1995, 1998, 2011) and is now the school’s most attended bowl game.
Virginia is coached by Mike London, the ACC Coach of the Year. They finished second in the ACC Coastal Division, a four-win improvement over 2010.
This will be a very special bowl game for the 2011 Virginia Cavaliers; no one on the current roster has played in a bowl during their career. Virginia is led by sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco who enters the bowl with 2,359 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. At running back the Hoos have a solid one-two combination with junior Perry Jones (920 yards) and freshman Kevin Parks (661 yards).
Defensively, Virginia has improved leaps-and-bounds over its 2010 performance. In 2010 – Mike London’s first season – Virginia struggled defensively finishing the season as the 78th best unit nationally. In 2010, Virginia allowed over 6.1 yards per play and rarely held any opponent under 400 yards.
What a difference a year makes. Virginia enters the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl as the 30th ranked defense nationally and – in the process – has shaved nearly a yard-per-play off its average from 2010; rarely allowing any opponent more than 400 yards per game.
Get to know: Auburn
Speaking of change; Auburn has gone in the opposite direction of Virginia.
Auburn is playing in its 37th bowl all-time and enters with a four-game bowl win streak; tied for the longest in school history.
The 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl will be Auburn’s fifth appearance in the bowl; it’s last game was versus Clemson in 2007 (23-20 win).
Last season, at this time, Auburn was preparing to play for the National Championship versus the Oregon Ducks. Auburn finished 2010 as the 7th-best offense nationally and 60th-best defense. In 2011 though, Auburn’s fall has been steep. The Tigers have dropped 98 spots offensively to the 105th-ranked offense as well as 19 spots defensively; ranked 79th.
Auburn limps in to the Chick-fil-A Bowl after being dominated by No. 2 Alabama 42-14, No. 18 Georgia 45-7 and No. 1 LSU 45-10. To make matters worse, it’s top offensive player, sophomore RB Michael Dyer (1242 yards), has been suspended for the bowl.
Remaining is junior QB Barrett Trotter (1,009 yards), junior RB Onterio McCalebb (532 yards) and hopefully, for Auburn’s sake, an emergence of freshman RB Tre Mason (97 yards).
You Should Know…
Virginia and Auburn have met twice, with each winning on the opponent’s home field in 1997 and 1998.
Auburn won the 1997 opener in Charlottesville 28-17 with QB Dameyune Craig (Current FSU assistant) who had a pair of TD passes. Virginia returned the favor in 1998, claiming a 19-0 win in Auburn.
– Virginia safeties coach and special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter appeared at safety in both meetings with Auburn (1997 & 1998).
– Auburn’s last three bowl games have all been decided on the game’s final play, with the Tigers winning all three.
If You’re Going
If you are making the trip and this is your first trip to Atlanta [I find this unlikely] then plan accordingly with a few extra days to take in the New Year; there is so much to do in Hot-Lanta. No matter what your interests are, Atlanta has it.
Centennial Olympic Park – the home of the 1996 Olympics – provides year-round entertainment including concerts, festivals and family activities. The Zoo Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site & Suite, Medieval Times, the CNN Center, shopping galore, Atlanta Opera and the Atlanta Ballet; Atlanta truly has it all.
If you are in Atlanta do not miss the opportunity for some fantastic eats as well. Two places I think of when I hear Atlanta: Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles and The Varsity. Do it!
If You’re Watching At home
For the flavor of Atlanta in a brew, you must try a beer from Sweetwater Brewing Company located in Atlanta, Ga.
If you have read any of my bowl previews then you know I love a good stout; allow me to switch it up.
Sweetwater 420 [no jokes included] Extra Pale Ale is your safest bet from Sweetwater. Pour your bottle into a pint glass and let the sweet nose, full of a hoppy/red wine zing, prepare your taste buds. It is a light tasting, fruity, well-balanced brew that is a great thirst quencher. The 420 is only a 5.4 percent ABV; a pleasant one at that.
Between the two teams; I believe Auburn is the more talented compilation. However, with the loss of Dyer and the season-long struggle that has been the Auburn offense; Virginia is the more motivated, determined team.
Virginia 27, Auburn 21