What wasn’t expected was a late change in opponents. The Tigers will play Virginia (8-4) instead of Virginia Tech (11-2).
The Tigers (7-5) were anticipating a match up with the Hokies, who lost to Clemson 38-10 Saturday night in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, N.C.
But the Sugar Bowl, in what was considered a surprise move by ESPN’s college football analysts, chose Virginia Tech over higher-ranked teams like Baylor, Kansas State and Boise State as an at-large BCS selection to face Michigan.
When the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s turn came, they chose Virginia over Georgia Tech and Florida State to face the Tigers.
“Virginia closed the season very strong and had wins head to head over Georgia Tech and Florida State,” said Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan in explaining the bowl’s selection.
Virginia coach Mike London was pleased by the development.
“It has been a great year and a great opportunity for a young team to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” London said. “We’re humbled by the opportunity to go play in Atlanta, and what an opportunity, to play the defending national champions.”
Auburn will be making its 38th bowl appearance and its fifth in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly known as the Peach Bowl.
This year’s game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve at the Georgia Dome.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said the school’s close proximity to Atlanta should please Tiger fans.
“We feel blessed to be in such a great bowl game,” Chizik said. “The Chick-fil-A Bowl has been outstanding through the years in terms of interest and fan excitement. Atlanta is a place that is very near and dear to our hearts. Our fan base is going to be extremely excited. We’re thrilled to be in such a great bowl game.”
The two schools will divide 34,000 tickets. The game is a sellout to the general public for the 15th consecutive year.
Tickets for the Chick-fil-A Bowl are $80 and may be purchased through the Auburn Ticket Office via aubtix.com or calling 1-855-AUB-2010. All seating assignments will be based on Tigers Unlimited Priority. For the best seats, fans are encouraged to place orders through the Auburn Athletic Department. For additional information, visit www.auburntigers.com/bowltickets.html.
“Virginia and Auburn represent two of the most exciting young teams in the country,” said Stokan. “With these two teams, we have two top-tier coaching staffs, incredible fan bases and great history and tradition. We’re expecting an unmatched atmosphere and a real battle in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.”
The only meetings between Auburn and Virginia came in a home-and-home meeting in 1997 and 1998. Auburn won the 1997 meeting, 18-7, in Charlottesville, while the Cavaliers won in Auburn, 19-0, in 1998. It will mark the first time the two teams have met in a bowl game.