Atlanta the center of college football bowl universe

5:08 p.m Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017 Homepage
Stephen M. Dowell/TNS
UCF head coach Scott Frost and players celebrate amid falling confetti with the championship trophy after winning the American Athletic Conference Championship Game at Spectrum Stadium Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 in Orlando. UCF won the game and the AAC title 62-55 in double overtime. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

The 2017 college football bowl season will begin and end at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Sunday’s invitations accepted.

The season will begin with the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 16 and end with the national championship on Jan. 8 with No. 1 seed Clemson, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama in contention for the title.

But those aren’t the only two bowl games that will be played in the $1.5 billion stadium in downtown Atlanta.

The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which will be played Jan. 1, will feature two high-scoring offenses when Auburn meets UCF in the 50th anniversary of the game. The Tigers (10-3, 7-1), beaten by Georgia in the SEC championship also played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, are averaging 34.4 points per game, 25th most in FBS, but also have a defense that has allowed an average of just 17.3 points per game, 10th fewest in FBS. 

Of course, no team has scored more points than the Central Florida (12-0, 8-0), champions of the AAC, with an offense that averages 49.4 points per game. UCF will be the first undefeated team to ever play in the Peach Bowl.

“To have the only undefeated team in the country and No. 1 scoring team, to have them playing No. 7 Auburn, with a top-10 scoring defense, you can’t do better than that matchup,” Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President Gary Stokan said. 

The bowl game will continue a stretch of strong matchups in Atlanta.

Within the past 13 months, the city has hosted four matchups of top-15 ranked teams in different games and, of course, will get two more in the next month with the Peach Bowl and national title game.

“The people in Atlanta have certainly benefitted from us being the college football capital of the world,” Stokan said.

Here are notes on the other bowls of local interest:

Around the SEC

The conference has two teams, No. 3 Georgia, the SEC champion, and No. 4 Alabama, in the College Football Playoff.

The Bulldogs will face Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and the Tide will play top-seeded Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Both games are on Jan. 1.

The other games:

Texas Bowl: Missouri (7-5, 4-4) will play Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12) in Houston on Dec. 27.

Music City Bowl: Kentucky (7-5, 4-4) will play Northwestern (9-3, 7-2 Big 10) in Nashville on Dec. 29.  

Belk Bowl: Jimbo Fisher may make his Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4) debut when the Aggies take on Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4 ACC) in Charlotte on Dec. 29. 

Citrus Bowl: LSU (9-3, 6-2), coached by Ed Orgeron, will face Notre Dame (9-3), coached by Brian Kelly, on Jan. 1. The Irish are averaging 35.3 points per game, 21st most in FBS. The Tigers feature a defense that is allowing just 18.8 points per game.

Taxslayer Bowl: Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4) will face Louisville (8-4, 4-4 ACC) in Jacksonville on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs may be led reportedly by new coach Joe Moorhead, who replaced Dan Mullen. 

Outback Bowl: South Carolina (8-4, 5-3) will face Michigan (8-4, 5-4 Big 10) in Tampa on Jan. 1. 

 Around the ACC

The conference has one team, Clemson, in the College Football Playoffs. The Tigers, the top seed, will play No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The other games:

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (6-6, 3-5) will play Northern Illinois (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American) in Detroit on Dec. 26.

Independence Bowl: Florida State (6-6, 3-5), which may or may not have a coach, will play Southern Miss (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA) in Shreveport on Dec. 27.

Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College (7-5, 4-4) will play Iowa (7-5, 4-5) in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27.

Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech (9-3, 5-3) will face Oklahoma State (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) in Orlando on Dec. 28 in a game featuring Bud Foster’s defense that allowed an average of 13.5 points per game against Mike Gundy’s mullet and offense that averaged 46.3 points per game.

Military Bowl: Virginia (6-6, 3-5) will play Navy (6-5, 4-4) in Washington D.C. on Dec. 28.

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4) will face Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4 SEC) on Dec. 29.

Sun Bowl: N.C. State (8-4, 6-2) will face Arizona State (7-5, 6-3) in El Paso on Dec. 29. The Sun Devils recently hired Herm Edwards as coach.  

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (8-4, 4-4) will play Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC) in Jacksonville on Dec. 30.

Orange Bowl: Miami (10-2, 7-1), beaten by the Tigers in the ACC championship, will play Wisconsin (12-1, 9-0), beaten by Ohio State in the Big 10 championship, on Dec. 30. The Hurricanes, once among the top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, limp into the game with consecutive losses.

Around the Sun Belt

Georgia State is headed back to the Cure Bowl.

The Panthers (6-5, 5-3), led by first-year coach Shawn Elliott, will face Western Kentucky (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA) in Orlando on Dec. 16. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m.

Georgia State made its bowl debut in the Orlando-based bowl two years ago. It was beaten by San Jose State.

The Panthers are led on offense by quarterback Conner Manning and wide receiver Penny Hart. They lost their past two games, but averaged 21.7 points per game and allowed 25.5 points per game. The Hilltoppers are led by quarterback Mike White. Their offense averaged 26.1 points per game and its defense allowed 26.8 points per game.

New Orleans Bowl: Troy (10-2, 7-1), conference co-champions, will play North Texas (9-4, 7-1 Conference USA) at 1 p.m. on Dec. 16. The Mean Green were members of the Sun Belt from 2001-13. The Trojans had one of the best defenses in FBS this season, allowing an average of 17.5 points per game.

Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (7-4, 6-2) will face Middle Tennessee State (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA) on Dec. 16.

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State (8-4, 7-1), conference co-champions, will face Toledo (11-2, 7-1 MAC), which averaged 39.2 points per game, on Dec. 23.

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State (6-6, 4-4) will play Utah State (6-6, 4-4 Mountain West) on Dec. 29.

Other games of interest

Celebration Bowl: Grambling (11-1, 8-0), champions of the SWAC, will play North Carolina A&T (11-0, 8-0), champions of the MEAC, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 16. 

Boca Raton Bowl: Lane Kiffin’s FAU (10-3, 8-0), champions of Conference USA in his first season, will Temple (6-6, 4-4 AAC) on Dec. 19. 

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