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.
Ga. Tech to stay at home for bowl game
Georgia Tech will face LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Bowl officials announced their Southeastern Conference choice Sunday evening. The No. 14 Yellow Jackets (9-3) were picked as the Atlantic Coast Conference representative last Tuesday, securing their 12th straight bowl appearance.
LSU (7-5) will be the first defending national champion in the game's 41-year history, which began as the Peach Bowl. But the Tigers struggled down the stretch, losing four of their last six games to finish below .500 (3-5) in the SEC.
Georgia Tech dominated the All-ACC team, placing a league-high four players on the first squad, and also claimed player of the year (running back Jonathan Dwyer) and coach of the year (Paul Johnson).
The game will be played New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome