Dawgs headed to Tampa for Outback Bowl

ATHENS – The Outback Bowl wanted Georgia and didn't want to wait around to make it official.

That's what Jim McVay, the bowl's CEO, said Tuesday after he officially extended an invitation to the Bulldogs to play Wisconsin in the January 1 game in Tampa. The game will kick off at 11 a.m. and be televised by ESPN.

Traditionally, most of the SEC's bowls bids haven't gone out until after the SEC Championship Game, which will be played Saturday between Auburn and Tennessee, but "as we kept looking at the various scenarios, our committee kept coming up with, we want Georgia," McVay said.

McVay said he's working under the assumption that the Capital One Bowl will take LSU if Auburn beats Tennessee on Saturday.

"It was clear we were going to take (Georgia)," he said.

The No. 8 Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2 SEC) were happy to be invited.

"I was expecting that it would drag on until after the championship game," athletic director Damon Evans said. "I was surprised but excited. I'm glad it has taken place so we can go ahead and move forward."

Georgia already has sold about 9,000 tickets to the game to its season-ticket holders, Evans said, and tickets went on sale to the general public on Tuesday afternoon. They are available today via the Internet or by phone. The Outback Bowl allotted Georgia 11,000 tickets initially, but the Bulldogs expect to ask for more.

"I can promise you, we're thrilled about it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Everybody has been anticipating that this would be it, and now that it's a reality, we're all fired up about it."

The No. 17 Badgers (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) were part of the national championship race in early November, when they were 9-0 and ranked as high as No. 4 in the BCS. However, they lost their last two games, to Michigan State and Iowa, by a combined score of 79-21. Richt has watched a television replay of the Badgers' loss to Iowa, he said.

They have "just an awesome defense from what I can see and an offense that is really physical but still have the ability to throw the ball," he said.

The Badgers make their living with that defense and the running game. They lead the Big Ten in points (14.6) and yards (275.9) allowed, but they are 10th in the 11-team league in scoring (20.7).

Anthony Davis, Wisconsin's leading rusher (127.7 yards per game), missed the Iowa game due to a quadriceps injury but will return in time for the bowl game. Defensive star Erasmus James -- a defensive end who is one of three finalists for the Bednarik Award along with Georgia's David Pollack – has been slowed by an injury (high ankle sprain) but should be close to full speed in time for the bowl.

Georgia quarterback David Greene (fractured thumb) also is expected to be ready to play in time for the bowl game, said Richt, who has family connections near the Outback Bowl. His sister Nikki and brother-in-law Brad Johnson live in the Tampa area. Johnson is a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Plus," he said, "my family is huge fans of Outback Steakhouse, so we're excited."

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