MIAMI LAKES, Fla. (AP) — Mississippi State’s body of work somehow looked considerably better to the College Football Playoff selection committee this week, without the Bulldogs even playing.
As such, they’re headed to the Orange Bowl.
After climbing three spots in the final CFP rankings and leapfrogging Michigan State, the Bulldogs will be at Sun Life Stadium on Dec. 31 to take on Georgia Tech — the first meeting between those programs since 2009.
Mississippi State (10-2, No. 8 AP, No. 7 CFP) was second to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference’s West Division. Georgia Tech (10-3, No. 10 AP, No. 12 CFP) won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division and lost the league title game to Florida State.
“I have no idea how the committee does everything, how they kind of worked it all out,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “To be honest, it was more surprising that we were No. 10 last week off of our strength of schedule and the quality wins we had over Top 25 teams and three wins over top 10 teams.”
Mississippi State held the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 for five weeks this season, and was the top team on the initial three releases by the CFP committee.
Georgia Tech ranked second nationally by piling up 333.6 yards rushing per game this season, and finished with 41 rushing touchdowns — fourth-most among all FBS schools. Mississippi State allowed only 11 touchdowns on the ground all season, has an elite running back in Josh Robinson (1,128 yards) and a dual-threat quarterback in Dak Prescott (2,996 passing yards, 939 rushing yards).
Prescott has thrown for 24 touchdowns and rushed for 13 more this season.
“Everybody knows about Dak Prescott and what he’s done,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “I know that they were ranked No. 1 in the country for about three or four weeks there. Tremendous team, some outstanding individual players and a lot of respect for what they’ve done there.”
Like Mississippi State, the Yellow Jackets have a quarterback who utilizes legs as well as his arm. Justin Thomas leads Georgia Tech’s rushing attack with 965 yards so far this season.
It’ll be the fourth straight ranked opponent — and third straight top-10 foe — for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have gone 2-1 in that stretch, beating then-No. 18 Clemson and then-No. 8 Georgia before losing 37-35 to the CFP-bound Seminoles on Saturday night.
According to STATS, Georgia Tech will be the first ACC team to face four straight ranked opponents since Miami opened the year with such a streak in 2009.
“This was one of our goals at the beginning of the year, to get to the Orange Bowl,” Johnson said. “Normally you have to win our league championship game, but fortunately for us like Mississippi State the team that won our league is going to the playoffs. So we were able to get in the bowl and they’re going to be ecstatic about it.”
Georgia Tech is going to the Orange Bowl for the seventh time, most recently after the 2009 season.
Mississippi State has been to the Orange Bowl twice before, losing in 1937 and winning in 1941.
“We felt this was an unbelievable destination for us to go to,” Mullen said. “If you went and asked all our players to what bowl game they wanted to go, this would be their No. 1 choice and we’re thrilled to be involved in going to this game.”