Dawgs Get Capital One Bowl Bid

ATHENS - Georgia's disappointing conclusion to its regular season made things interesting, but the Bulldogs' 9-3 record was still good enough to earn an invitation to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando where they will play Michigan State.

Since Georgia fell to Georgia Tech two weeks ago, representatives from Florida Citrus Sports remained silent on which SEC team they would select for the New Year's Day bowl. While the committee generally selects the highest ranked team not participating in a BCS bowl, Mississippi was also eligible for consideration and finished the season with a blowout win over its in-state rival.

"What made it such a big discussion was that the two didn't play each other on the field, but what tipped the scales was the fact that Georgia had the better record overall and the better conference record," said Steve Hogan, the executive director of Florida Citrus Sports.

Hogan declined to release the exact vote but said it was "very, very close" between Georgia and Mississippi. The Rebels will play Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

While the Bulldogs' superior record earned them the bid, the matchup of two of the nation's top running backs adds a bit of additional sizzle to the game.

Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno are two of the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award given to the nation's best running back each season, and Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said he expected the matchup to be a hot topic of conversation leading up to the game.

"It's inevitable it's going to be one of the biggest storylines that two of the finest running backs are going to be on the field at the same time," Richt said. "I don't think there's any question people will be talking about that matchup … so I think it's going to be unavoidable for Knowshon as far as that matchup is concerned."

Georgia has only faced Michigan State once in the school's history, when the Bulldogs beat the Spartans 34-27 in the 1989 Gator Bowl –Vince Dooley's final game as Georgia's head coach.

This season, Michigan State is 9-3 – the same record as Georgia – but finished behind Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. Hogan said Ohio State would have been the Capital One Bowl's preferred school from the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes were selected for a BCS bowl game instead.

Still, Michigan State head coach Mike Dantonio said the Spartans were looking forward to their first New Year's Day bowl game in nine years.

"We're thrilled to be playing at the Capital One Bowl and very excited about playing the University of Georgia," Dantonion said. "They have an outstanding football team."

Georgia entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country, so the trip to Orlando could come with a bit of apathy from a fan base that expected a BCS bowl berth a few months ago.

The university said it has already sold more than 12,000 tickets for the game, however, and Hogan said he expected Georgia's fans to show up in large numbers to support their team.

"I think Georgia fans are generally of the stronger fans in the country, and I think they're going to be pretty fired up to come down here and play a Big Ten team like Michigan State with something to prove," Hogan said.

Richt said he expects the same from his players, who he said are excited to battle a Big Ten opponent.

The Big Ten has won the past four Capital One Bowls, with the last SEC victory coming when Georgia beat Purdue in 2003. Richt said Georgia wants to re-establish the SEC's reputation in the bowl.

"I think they do take pride in that," he said. "I know when we played Arizona State in the Pac-10, that was a big topic of discussion. Im sure that's going to come up again, and I'm sure Michigan State will be talking about the exact same thing."

More importantly for the Bulldogs is adding a 10th win and a highlight to remember the season by after losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech.

A year ago, Georgia narrowly missed out on a trip to the BCS national championship game, settling for a berth in the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs easily beat Hawaii in that game, however, and used the momentum to carry them to this year's No. 1 preseason ranking.

Linebacker Rennie Curran said he hopes a similar victory in the Capital One Bowl can have the same effect as the Bulldogs look to next season, but also said it's crucial that Georgia redeems itself after a season filled with missed opportunities.

"Looking at last year, how much momentum that built, you see how important this game is in terms of how we finish up and how we start off going into next year," Curran said. "It's going to be a great experience, but at the same time, we've got an obligation to re-establish our reputation after a lot of things didn't go our way.

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