Virginia Cavaliers picked for Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta
ATLANTA (AP) — Virginia's regular-season wins over Georgia Tech and Florida State were the difference for the Cavaliers landing their first invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 13 years.
Virginia (8-4) and Auburn (7-5), both unranked, were chosen for the Dec. 31 bowl on Sunday. The Cavaliers were invited after No. 17 Virginia Tech, which appeared bound for Atlanta after its loss to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, was invited to the Sugar Bowl.
Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan said head-to-head results made Virginia the choice over other Florida State and Georgia Tech after each of the three teams finished with 5-3 records in ACC games.
"Our bowl is a reward for the players and if that is your main philosophy in selecting teams, you have to let the kids play themselves into our game," Stokan said Sunday night.
Wake Forest also finished 5-3 in the ACC but was only 6-6 overall.
The Cavaliers will be making their first postseason appearance since losing to Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl after the 2007 season. Virginia is playing in the Atlanta bowl for the first time since losing to Georgia, 35-33, after the 1998 season.
No current fifth-year seniors on the Virginia roster played in the Gator Bowl as freshmen in 2007.
Virginia coach Mike London said his players, hungry for a bowl bid, were "elated."
"No one on our roster has played in a bowl game, so what a fantastic opportunity and setting for them to do so for the first time," London said.
London was named ACC coach of the year after Virginia improved from a 4-8 finish last season.
"I'm hoping this year proves the program is on its way back up," London said.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl matches teams from the ACC and Southeastern Conference.
Auburn, the defending national champion, suffered lopsided losses to Georgia and Alabama in its final two SEC games. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he's glad his players will have a chance to bounce back from their 42-14 loss to Alabama.
"It's good thing that wasn't the last game of the year for us and we have another one to play," Chizik said.
Virginia also is trying to rebound from a loss to its in-state rival. The Cavaliers won four straight before closing their regular season with a 38-0 loss to Virginia Tech.
It is unusual to have two unranked teams in the game.
Last year, No. 23 Florida State beat No. 19 South Carolina 26-17 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Two years ago, Virginia Tech was No. 12 when it beat Tennessee in the game.
Stokan said Auburn and Virginia are "two of the most exciting young teams in the country."