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).
“The 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,” 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).
“Their season was highlighted by a six-game winning streak and included big wins against Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl,” Bennett wrote. “This 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.”
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 Saturday’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.
“I think the options are good,” Stricklin said. “Atlanta is certainly a strong possibility at this point but I think the Gator Bowl is also a possibility. We’re going to be in good shape either way. I’d be surprised if it’s not one of those two bowls.”
The Chick-fil-A Bowl is fifth in line in terms of the bowl selection process behind the Sugar, Capital One, Outback and Cotton.
“One of my goals for the season was to get the opportunity to go to Atlanta,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said with a smile after the Egg Bowl win. “Maybe we’ll get that opportunity now, maybe just a couple weeks later than we wanted.”
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 D’Arcy, who happens to be a State alum.
“I believe that’s a fair assessment but I can look you in the face and say if they win tonight, they’ll go,” D’Arcy said during halftime of the Egg Bowl about State’s potential chances at an invite. “I also can’t say if they lose, they won’t be a pick.”
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.