ATLANTA — Georgia Tech players have been looking forward to playing a bowl game in nice weather.
How about a guaranteed 72 degrees?
The Yellow Jackets’ reward for a 9-3 regular season may be their first invitation since 2000 to their hometown Chick-fil-A Bowl in the controlled environment of the Georgia Dome.
Chick-fil-A president Gary Stokan said Tuesday night he may announce his bowl’s Atlantic Coast Conference representative today.
Stokan wouldn’t make that announcement on Tuesday night, but he had much praise for No. 15 Georgia Tech and coach Paul Johnson. Georgia Tech closed its regular season with a 45-42 win over Georgia on Saturday.
"Georgia Tech is 15th in the BCS and could possibly even move up a little bit," Stokan told The Associated Press.
"Having just beaten their arch rival and playing well coming into the bowl game and being a great TV football brand with a passionate fan base, those are great characteristics of a team you’d want to select in your bowl game."
Stokan said his committee also was considering Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College for the Dec. 31 game.
Virginia Tech and Boston College will play in Saturday’s ACC championship game in Tampa.
Stokan said his tentative plan for a Wednesday announcement was pending approval from the ACC. Otherwise, the bowl bids would be announced on Sunday.
In 2000, another nine-win Georgia Tech team lost to Louisiana State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and the committee could invite the 7-5 Tigers back to Atlanta.
The Chick-Fil-A committee’s preference is to pick ACC and Southeastern Conference teams from outside the state of Georgia to sell hotel rooms in Atlanta. The committee has made exceptions for its home-state teams, including in 2006, when Georgia beat Virginia Tech.
Local teams can be more attractive to bowls which struggle to sell out games, but ticket sales have not been a problem for the Atlanta game. The Chick-fil-A’s streak of 11 straight sellouts is the third-longest among all bowls, trailing only the Rose and Fiesta.
Last year’s Chick-fil-A game sold out only 48 hours after the Clemson-Auburn pairing was announced.
The ACC champion will land the league’s BCS spot in the Orange Bowl. The Chick-fil-A Bowl gets the next choice from the ACC, followed by the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
Georgia Tech’s selling points are strong. The Yellow Jackets are the highest ranked ACC team and fan interest is surging after the win over Georgia, ending the Bulldogs’ seven-year winning streak in the series.
Georgia Tech players are eager to play before as many of their family members and fans as possible in a bowl game in the South after losing to Fresno State in last year’s Humanitarian Bowl — their second trip to Boise in the last five years.
"Anywhere but Idaho," said quarterback Josh Nesbitt when asked about his bowl preference after the win over Georgia.
Georgia Tech could land an invitation to Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl if the Chick-fil-A selects Florida State or another ACC team.
"There are pluses and minuses to every bowl," running back Roddy Jones said Tuesday. "There are definitely pluses to being here, with our fans being here and us playing most of our games here, but there are definitely pluses to being in Florida, too, going out of town and having the whole experience. ... It will be fun no matter what."
Johnson said he would make sure his players enjoyed the bowl experience, even if the team does not leave Atlanta.
"We’d check into a hotel and do the regular bowl stuff and I’m sure it’d be great," Johnson said Tuesday.
"There’d be a lot of positives to that. If we do go somewhere else, that’d be fine, too. We’re just excited to be in a bowl and look forward to playing wherever we go."
Johnson hinted the Chick-fil-A talk may be more than speculation.
"I think we have an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes, but nothing is ever official before it’s official," Johnson said.
Johnson said a Chick-fil-A invitation "would be a huge advantage for our fan base.
"It makes it easy for them to get to the game and hopefully we’d have a huge turnout," he said.
Georgia may be headed to Orlando’s Capital One Bowl.