ATLANTA — A year after winning the BCS championship, LSU is headed to the Chick-fil-A Bowl to play Georgia Tech.
LSU (7-5) will be the first defending national champion in the game’s 41-year history, which began as the Peach Bowl. The Tigers struggled down the stretch, losing four of their last six games to finish 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference.
“Last year was a wonderful thing to happen, but this year is still good that we have a nice bowl game with the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” defensive end Tyson Jackson said Sunday night after the invitation was announced. “We’ll go out there and show everyone that we are still capable, still fighting and still hungry.”
The No. 14 Yellow Jackets (9-3) will be able to stay at home for the Dec. 31 matchup at the Georgia Dome. Georgia Tech, picked as the Atlantic Coast Conference representative last week, will make its 12th straight bowl appearance.
The Chick-fil-A wound up with the Tigers after the Cotton Bowl chose Mississippi and the Outback Bowl went with South Carolina.
“We all got the teams we wanted,” Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan said. “We really believe the LSU seniors will want to put on a good show here in Atlanta, and they’ll be playing against a top-ranked team.”
This will be a rematch of the 2000 bowl, won by LSU 28-14. The Tigers also took part in the inaugural game in 1968, beating Florida State, and were on the winning end of the biggest rout in the bowl’s history, a 40-3 blowout of Miami three seasons ago.
The Yellow Jackets were edged out of a spot in their league championship game on a tiebreaker, but they landed four players on the All-ACC first team, more than any other school, and swept the coach of the year (Paul Johnson) and player of the year (running back Jonathan Dwyer) awards.
Running out of the triple option, Georgia Tech piled up more than 400 yards rushing in its last two games, victories over Miami and rival Georgia — their first win over the Bulldogs since 2000. Dwyer was the ACC’s leading rusher, and quarterback Josh Nesbitt steadily improved as he grew more familiar with the scheme.
“They have a pretty potent offense,” LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith said. “The last time I saw an option offense was at Parkview Baptist (high school). As far as a college football team running it, I have not seen it, and those guys have great athletes. When you get that type of system and type of offense with the athletes that they have at running back and quarterback, it can be dangerous.”
Johnson said he looks forward to facing a team of LSU’s stature, even if the Tigers’ season was a bit of a letdown.
“We realize LSU is going to be a formidable challenge,” he said. “They’re one year removed from being a national championship team. They’ve got a great tradition and a great history.”
Johnson could also be dealing with issues that don’t have anything to do with the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
There’s already speculation that he’ll be a candidate for a more prominent job, such as Auburn, after his first-year success with the Yellow Jackets.
He hardly issued a strong denial.
“I don’t have any comment on it. I don’t ever talk about that stuff,” Johnson said. “I’m too busy trying to recruit here for Georgia Tech. I’m just getting ready for the bowl game and trying to finish out recruiting.”