Georgia Tech and Mississippi State will have college football’s attention all to themselves Wednesday night. The Orange Bowl, with an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on New Year’s Eve, is the only game scheduled for that time.
It’s a time slot that the Chick-fil-A Bowl (now the Peach Bowl) used to great effect for several years, often bringing in strong ratings. Last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl (Duke-Texas A&M) drew 8.7 million viewers, the seventh-highest rating among all bowl games and more than twice the number that saw Tech play (3.1 million) in the Music City Bowl. Tech's highest-rated game this season, the ACC championship game against Florida State, actually had more viewers than last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl, at 10.2 million.
“I think the Orange Bowl has a lot of tradition and history, and a lot of people will be watching the game,” coach Paul Johnson said. “You know, it gives you a chance to showcase your program nationally.”
Locally, Tech wide receivers coach Buzz Preston said it was hard to say what sort of value the team’s presence in south Florida could have on recruiting. Teams at bowl sites will sometimes invite prospects to watch practices, but that requires opening practice to the public, per NCAA rules. Tech keeps its practices closed.
Preston recruits that part of the state for Tech (among other regions) and comes down at least twice a year to visit with high school coaches and prospects.
The region has not been terribly fruitful for the Yellow Jackets. Including the 2008 signing class, Tech has signed three players out of south Florida, the last in 2011. Tech does have 16 players on the roster from the state, all from north and central Florida, understandable given the greater proximity. Some of the lack of signees is attributable to the numbers game of filling classes.
“This year, we may not have some,” Preston said. “Next year, we may have two, three guys.”