ATLANTA -- Two teams with very different histories are set to face off in the Chick-fil-A-Bowl at 7:30 tonight in the Georgia Dome.
Only a year removed from winning the national championship, Auburn (7-5) is making its third straight trip to a bowl game after a rebuilding year marked by the team’s youth and a sense of change surrounding the team.
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will leave after the Chick-fil-A Bowl to take over the head coaching job at Arkansas State, former defensive coordinator Ted Roof left for Central Florida, and All-SEC running back Michael Dyer is suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“With the departure of a lot of older, more experienced players, we embarked on a new season with some inexperience,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “Not an excuse. It is what it is.”
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Chizik, who is filling Roof’s role as the defensive coordinator, may give Auburn an advantage.
In all of his years as a coach, Chizik has never lost a bowl game.
“You’ve got to know the personality of your football team,” Chizik said. “You’ve got to know what they can and can’t do.”
Virginia (8-4), on the other hand, is a program hoping its first bowl appearance since 2007 is the start of a new level of success under second-year coach Mike London, a former FCS coach who won a national title at Richmond.
“It’s a learned experience that when you play well on the road -- crowd noise, weather, whatever it is -- that becomes kind of a boost for you mentally,” London said.
Plenty of people will be in the stands tonight. The Chick-fil-A Bowl is a sellout for the 15th straight season.