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Dogs headed to Capital One Bowl to play Michigan State
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Georgia started the season with hopes of winning a national title. Michigan State was in the running for the Rose Bowl until its very last game.

They’ll both settle for a New Year’s Day consolation prize: a matchup in the Capital One Bowl.
The game will feature two of the best running backs in the country, Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno and Javon Ringer of the No. 19 Spartans, and each coach did his best to make the trip to Orlando, Fla., sound appealing — regardless of any loftier goals.

“We’re thrilled to be playing in the Capital One Bowl,” Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio said Sunday evening. “This is another step in the progression of things. Our goal was to make a New Year’s Day bowl game, and now that we’ve been able to do that we’re very, very excited. I think our fan base will be very, very excited to travel to Orlando.”

Mark Richt of the 16th-ranked Bulldogs (9-3) sounded a similar theme, even though his team surely hoped to be playing for a championship. Georgia finished last season No. 2 in The Associated Press rankings after a Sugar Bowl route of Hawaii, fueling speculation that a team loaded with plenty of returnees could contend for a national title.

Indeed, the Bulldogs started the season No. 1 in the AP poll, but a crushing home loss to Alabama — the Crimson Tide led 31-0 at halftime — exposed the team’s problems on the offensive and defensive lines. Any hopes of a title were ruined with a 49-10 rout by Florida, and by the end of the year Georgia wasn’t even the best team in its own state.

Georgia Tech closed the regular season with a 45-42 upset in Athens, its first victory over the Bulldogs since 2000.

“We’re very excited and very thankful,” Richt said. “I even remember as the season was going along, any time I would see a Capital One Bowl representative I would say, ‘We’d be thrilled to come back to your bowl one day.’ I knew they it was one of the greatest bowl experiences we ever had since I’ve been at Georgia. We’re looking forward to doing it again.”

Georgia will be making its fourth appearance in the Capital One Bowl, the last coming at the end of the 2003 season when the Bulldogs defeated Purdue 34-27 in overtime.

Since then, the Big Ten representative has won four straight over SEC opponents. The Spartans (9-3) hope to continue that trend, especially after a 49-18 loss to Penn State in the regular-season finale that ruined their bid to play in the Rose Bowl.

“The bottom line is we’ll be ready to compete,” Dantonio said. “We’re looking forward to getting a little respect back based on our last football game. We’ve got a lot to play for. Both teams have an opportunity to win 10 games this season, which would be a tremendous accomplishment.”

The Capital One had the first pick among SEC teams not qualifying for the BCS, and the selection committee seriously considered No. 20 Mississippi (8-4), which handed No. 1 Florida its only loss and closed the season on a five-game winning streak.

But Georgia’s superior record won out in the end.

“It was very, very close. There was a lot of debate,” said Steve Hogan, executive director of bowl operator Florida Citrus Sports. “Ole Miss was one of the hottest teams in the country at the end of the season.

But when it really came down to it, we tried to honor what we’ve always done. Georgia was 9-3 on the field. They were one game better in the conference, and their overall record was one game better.”

The selection committee took Michigan State, even though the Spartans will be making their second straight trip to Orlando. They played a year ago in the Champs Sports Bowl, the city’s sister postseason game.

“That definitely enters your thinking when you’re bringing someone back for the season year in a row,” Hogan said. “At the end of the day, what mattered most for us was the play on the field. ... We don’t make the decision based on every last ticket we can sell. These teams deserved it and we’re going to reward them.”



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