USC will return to Georgia Dome for Chick-fil-A Bowl - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

USC will return to Georgia Dome for Chick-fil-A Bowl

The Georgia Dome before the SEC Championship The Georgia Dome before the SEC Championship

ATLANTA, GA (WIS) - South Carolina is heading back to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

One day after being routed by top-ranked Auburn in the Southeastern Conference championship game, the Gamecocks accepted an invitation Sunday to face Florida State in the New Year's Eve bowl at the Georgia Dome.

The 19th-ranked Gamecocks were passed over by two Florida bowls, the Capital One and the Outback, after their 56-17 loss to Auburn. That left the Chick-fil-A Bowl with a matchup of teams that lost in their respective conference championship games.

Officials with the Atlanta game had already announced they would take the loser of the Atlantic Coast Conference title game. No. 23 Florida State (9-4) was defeated by Virginia Tech 44-33.

South Carolina has played in the Atlanta-based bowl, formerly known as the Peach Bowl, on one other occasion. The Gamecocks dropped a 14-3 decision to West Virginia on Dec. 30, 1969 in a game played at Grant Field.      

The Gamecocks will face a Seminoles (9-4) team coming off a 44-33 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game on Saturday night. Florida State and South Carolina met 10 times over a 13 year stretch from 1979-91. The Gamecocks won just one of those games and hold a 3-15 record against the Seminoles all time.

The only time South Carolina beat Florida State during that stretch was in 1984, when the Gamecocks won 10 games the only time in school history.  If Carolina beats FSU in Atlanta, it will be their tenth win of the season.

"This will be the first time in our history we have been able to match the ACC and SEC runners up in our Bowl," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "The Chick-fil-A Bowl is thrilled to be one of only three non-BCS bowls with two ranked teams competing."

South Carolina (9-4, 5-3 SEC) won the SEC East winning five of their last six regular season games. The Gamecocks sport the SEC's No. 1 rushing defense and lead the conference in sacks. Three of their four losses came to top-ranked Auburn (twice) and Arkansas. Running back Marcus Lattimore comes in at No. 2 in the SEC in scoring (8th nationally) and All-America receiver and Biletnikoff finalist Alshon Jeffery led the SEC in receiving yards per game (106.7).

"We're excited about returning to Atlanta and playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl," said head coach Steve Spurrier. "If we're ever going to win the SEC Championship, we're going to have to win a game in the Georgia Dome and this gives us another opportunity to play there.  Hopefully we'll play much better than the last time. We will try our best to represent the University of South Carolina in a very positive way."

"Since I've been at South Carolina, our fans have told me time and time again how exciting it would be to have an opportunity to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta," said South Carolina Athletics Director Eric Hyman. "This is an opportunity to renew a rivalry with an ACC school in Florida State and a great way to cap what has been a remarkable season of Gamecock Football. I know the folks in Atlanta do a wonderful job with this bowl and will make this a memorable trip for the Gamecocks."

Florida State (9-4, 6-2 ACC) won three straight games to finish the regular season to win the ACC Atlantic Division. The Seminoles will bring the ACC's third-best scoring offense into the game and boast ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Xavier Rhodes and Brandon Jenkins who helped FSU lead the ACC in sacks. Christian Ponder, the James Tatum  Award winner, was the ACC's third-most efficient passer and All-America guard Rodney Hudson just won his second straight Jacobs Blocking Trophy.

"I've been to the Chick-fil-A Bowl three or four times in my career. They do a phenomenal job," said FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. "It's one of the best bowl games you can go to, the way they treat you, the hospitality. Atlanta is a great town and playing in the dome, it's a great environment there and it's a great atmosphere. We have a great opponent and look forward to that challenge."

"Everyone – the Florida State players, coaches, staff, alumni and fans – are extremely excited about going to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve," said Randy Spetman, Florida State athletic director. "We have a tremendous alumni base in Atlanta that is ecstatic we are returning to the Bowl for the first time since 1983. It's going to be a fantastic event and a great way to bring in the New Year. We are really looking forward to the Chick-fil-A Bowl to cap an outstanding season and serve as a launching point for next season as well."

Florida State has appeared in the Chick-fil-A Bowl twice (1968, 1983) and is 1-1.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. The game will be nationally televised by ESPN, running unopposed in its prime time slot.

For information, or to order tickets, visit Chick-fil-ABowl.com.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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