Kickoff for the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl is set for 6:30 p.m. Central Time at the 71,228-seat Georgia Dome. The game will be televised by ESPN. It is the 45th year of existence for the contest, which was originally called the Peach Bowl.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he has respect for the Cavaliers and Mike London, the 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. He predicts it will be "a very good game" featuring two evenly matched teams.
"I know that Coach London has done a phenomenal job in the two years that he has been there," Chizik said. "I had a chance to see a couple of Virginia games on TV this past year. I saw a great win they had at Florida State.
"I know they play great defense," Chizik stated. "I know offensively they do a really, really good job of running the ball and have a balanced attack averaging close to 400 yards per game offensively, and, I know his background of winning championships so that is all I really need to know."
Chick-fil-A Bowl officials said they chose Virginia to play against the Tigers over Florida State and Georgia Tech because the Cavaliers won the head-to-head matches vs. those teams. The bowl committee also considered Virginia Tech, but didn't have the option to take the Hokies, who were selected to a BCS slot in the Sugar Bowl despite being crunched by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night.
"I know they have had, great wins this year on the road at Miami and on the road at Florida State," Chizik said of Virginia. "Similar to us they are a very young team so it is going to be a great game."
Chick-fil-A Bowl director Gary Stokan said the bowl has a history of producing close, exciting matchups and noted that Auburn and Virginia have been a part of that tradition. He predicted another good game for the 2011 bowl.
Stokan said that he believes Virginia has a lot of young talent on its roster, something he said mirrors Auburn's 2011 team, which he called one of "the best young teams in the country."
Stokan added, "I think this is going to be an evenly matched, very competitive game, which we typically provide in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. It is honor to have the defending national champs, who are ranked 25th in the BCS, joining us...Auburn fans have been very passionate coming to Atlanta as Virginia fans have."
Auburn sophomore defensive end Corey Lemonier will be making his second college bowl appearance.
Bowl officials said on Sunday night that each team will receive 17,000 tickets to sell. The bowl itself is out of tickets and Stokan noted that there are less than 1,000 available on Ticketmaster. He said the bowl expects a 15th consecutive sellout, the second longest streak behind the Rose Bowl.
Auburn director of athletics, Jay Jacobs, said he expects a big turnout of Auburn fans, noting that AU has more than 17,000 alumni in the Atlanta area. "It is a fun time to be in Atlanta on New Year's Eve in the Chick-fil-A Bowl," he said. "We have been there before and there is not a better venue in college athletics."
Chizik, who has been on the road recruiting this week, said he believes the players will be excited about the opportunity to play at the Georgia Dome on New Year's Eve. The Tigers will be taking the week off for exams before starting preparations for the bowl game.
"I want to say how blessed we feel to be in such a great bowl game," the coach stated. "The Chick-fil-A Bowl, obviously, through the years, has been so outstanding in terms of interest and fan excitement.
"Atlanta is a place that is very, very dear to our hearts," Chizik added. "The fan base is going to be extremely excited. Our players, our coaches, our administration, everybody--we are extremely thrilled to be able to be in such a great bowl game."
After losing the regular season finale to its in-state rival, Chizik said the coaches and players will be ready to tee it up again and end the season with a victory.
"A bowl game is a great reward for the players and we are excited to be coming to a bowl game of this nature," he said. "The great thing about football is you usually have another opportunity, except for that last game of the year. It's a good thing that wasn't the last game of the year for us."
"Our coaches will be excited about it, our players will be excited about it and our fans will be excited about it," Chizik said. "It is a great opportunity for us and we are thrilled."
Chizik noted the Tigers will need to be ready to play when they get to Atlanta. "I know they are going to be a very physical team," he said. "You can tell that by watching them on TV.
"I can tell the details of coaching are certainly impressed on the players. You can tell that by watching them play. I don't know a lot about the youth of their team, but I understand it is very similar to ours so it ought to be a great matchup."
Other SEC teams in bowl games include:
BCS Championship, Jan.9, New Orleans--LSU vs. Alabama
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2, Orlando--South Carolina vs. Nebraska
Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, Tampa--Georgia vs. Michigan State
Cotton Bowl, Jan. 6, Arlington, Tex.--Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Gator Bowl, Jan. 2, Jacksonville, Fla.--Florida vs. Ohio State
Music City Bowl, Dec. 30, Nashville--Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest
Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31, Memphis--Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati