#7 Bulldogs Earn Orange Bowl Berth

There will be a juicy end to both this 2014 calendar and Mississippi State season, as the Bulldogs have been booked for the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve.

Mississippi State will face Georgia Tech in the 81st annual Orange Bowl, sponsored by Capital One. Kickoff is 8:00et for ESPN telecast.

The Bulldogs completed their schedule 10-2, the most regular-season wins in program history, and 6-2 SEC to finish second in the Western Division. This was sufficient to score a #7 ranking in the final College Football Playoff committee release, up three spots from last week. State was #8 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls announced earlier in the day, which do not impact the Playoff standings.

But they do give this team excellent opportunity to make more history. With a victory in Miami the Bulldogs can become the first State squad to finish with a top-ten ranking, and only the second ever. The 1940 team, which went 10-0-1, was #9 in the final Associated Press rankings. Also, this would be the first eleven-win team in MSU history.

Georgia Tech (10-3) is ranked #12 in the final CFP list, dropping just one place after a two-point loss to Florida State in the ACC championship game. This will be the first meeting of the teams in a bowl game, though they did play in both 2008 (Atlanta) and 2009 (Starkville) in regular season games with the Yellow Jackets winning each. Ironically these two members of the original Southeastern Conference only played two other times with Tech also winning those meetings.

The Ticket Office plans to announce availability of more tickets, if any, for the bowl on Monday as well as travel packages. Bulldog fans accounted for all the 12,500 tickets allotted by the bowl to any potential school with their November pre-orders. The Ticket Office was to notify pre-ordered fans if they had made this initial cut for the original allotment.

Coach Dan Mullen, along with a number of Bulldogs and athletic director Scott Stricklin, were to meet with media Sunday evening. A bowl calendar is forthcoming, with the campus portion of bowl camp expected to start on December 12 and run through the 20th. The Bulldogs are taking care of fall semester finals this week, though still attending to strength and conditioning duties in advance of practices.

This will be the 18th bowl game for Bulldog football, and the fifth in six seasons under Mullen’s direction. His 2013 team set the record with a fourth-straight bowl trip. Mullen’s Bulldogs are 3-1 in bowl play including a 44-7 rout of Rice in the Liberty Bowl last December. Mullen has the most bowl victories by any Mississippi State coach already.

Mississippi State has played in the Orange Bowl previously…but not for a very, very long time. The 1936 Bulldogs in fact earned the school’s first-ever bowl berth by playing in the then-new Miami event, losing to Duquesne 13-12. Four seasons later the 1940 Bulldogs returned to the Orange Bowl and beat Georgetown 14-7 for the program’s first bowl victory.

This will be the first SEC representative in an Orange Bowl since the 1999 Alabama team lost to Michigan on January 2, 2000.

The Bulldogs have achieved their goal of playing in a New Years bowl, part of the College Football Playoff system. But it won’t be the four-team Playoffs per se. SEC champ Alabama, who beat the Bulldogs by five points in the regular season, are seeded #1 and facing #4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl; while #2 Oregon meets #3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

Mississippi State spent three weeks at #1 overall, in fact the first-ever three CFP rankings releases. A loss at Alabama dropped the Bulldogs to #4 for two more weeks; before an end-of-season defeat, also on the road, left them #10 last week. But after all the league title games played-out, State jumped to #7 and in the process got ahead of Michigan State. This allowed the Orange Bowl to take the higher-ranked team from the SEC or Big Ten to pit against the ACC runner-up.

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