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By MATTHEW STEVENS
The Chick-fil-A Bowl has narrowed down its selections to four total teams and two from each conference that included the Mississippi State program.
According to the weekly bowl selection blog, Chick-fil-A Bowl representative Leeman Bennett wrote late Thursday evening in their weekly Chick-fil-A Bowl selection blog that State (8-4, 4-4 in SEC) is one of two Southeastern Conference schools this committee is now focusing on and four total teams, two in each qualifying conference, for invitations to the bowl game (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
â€śThe Bulldogs would come into the Bowl as a top-25 ranked team at 8-4 after a season that saw them get to eight wins for the first time since 2007,â€ť Bennett wrote.
Obviously after scouting Mississippi State for several weeks, the Bulldogs are one of the two SEC schools the Chick-fil-A Bowl has its eye on along with Eastern Division champion South Carolina (9-3, 5-3).
â€śTheir season was highlighted by a six-game winning streak and included big wins against Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl,â€ť Bennett wrote. â€śThis is a program on the rise with an exciting young coach and a bright future. This would be a great time to get MSU back in Atlanta for the first time since 1999.â€ť
South Carolina plays top-ranked Auburn (12-0, 8-0) in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in the same Georgia Dome that will host the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The winner of the SEC Championship will qualify for a Bowl Championship Series bowl berth.
Officials for the Atlanta-based bowl said Thursday they will invite the loser of Saturdayâ€™s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game between No. 12 Virginia Tech (10-2) and No. 20 Florida State (9-3). The winner earns an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid and a likely trip to the Orange Bowl.
MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin went on the First Call show, a Tupelo-based sports talk radio show, with former Mississippi State quarterback and noted broadcaster Matt Wyatt and discussed the bowl possibilities in the interview segment.
â€śI think the options are good,â€ť Stricklin said. â€śAtlanta is certainly a strong possibility at this point but I think the Gator Bowl is also a possibility. Weâ€™re going to be in good shape either way. Iâ€™d be surprised if itâ€™s not one of those two bowls.â€ť
The Chick-fil-A Bowl is fifth in line in terms of the bowl selection process behind the Sugar, Capital One, Outback and Cotton.
â€śOne of my goals for the season was to get the opportunity to go to Atlanta,â€ť Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said with a smile after the Egg Bowl win. â€śMaybe weâ€™ll get that opportunity now, maybe just a couple weeks later than we wanted.â€ť
The Chick-fil-A Bowl has been to Davis-Wade Stadium to the most Bulldogs home games during the 2010 season and for the 2010 Egg Bowl game they sent representative Jack Dâ€™Arcy, who happens to be a State alum.
â€śI believe thatâ€™s a fair assessment but I can look you in the face and say if they win tonight, theyâ€™ll go,â€ť Dâ€™Arcy said during halftime of the Egg Bowl about Stateâ€™s potential chances at an invite. â€śI also canâ€™t say if they lose, they wonâ€™t be a pick.â€ť
The Chick-fil-A Bowl will announce its SEC selection Sunday evening.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl, formally called the Peach Bowl, is the ninth-oldest bowl game in the country and hosts the longest-running rivalry series between the ACC and SEC.