2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/17/2008
LSU (7-5) vs. No. 15 Georgia Tech (9-3)
Conference Matchup: SEC vs ACC
Date: Dec. 31
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, Georgia Dome
Spread: Georgia Tech -4, Over 50
Opening line: Georgia Tech -2.5 and 50
This is a much-anticipated game between two teams heading in different directions. Georgia Tech is better than expected in the first season under new coach Paul Johnson and his triple option attack while LSU, the defending national champion, is still trying to figure out what went wrong this year. This New Year's Eve tradition is always one of the most watched and well-attended bowl games of the year.
After opening up as a modest 2.5-point favorite, Georgia Tech backers moved them beyond a field goal and up to four-point favorites. The total, set at 50, remains the same at most sportsbooks.
Triple the pleasure
Not even Paul Johnson expected his triple option to be such a hit so soon. After bringing the somewhat antiquated offense with him from Navy to the ACC, many critics awaited growing pains. Instead they watched a Yellow Jacket running attack rush for 282.3 yards per game while more than handling its own in the ACC. Along with catching critics off guard, the new look Georgia Tech team may have caught Las Vegas off guard too. Opening the season as back-to-back underdogs, the Yellow Jackets covered both spreads and started 5-0 ATS. The team enters the bowl game after covering back-to-back spreads including a 45-42 win against Georgia in the regular season finale as 7.5-point underdogs.
From Closing the Season to Closing the Year
Last season LSU was playing in the final game of the season. This season the Bayou Bengals are playing in the final game of the year. That is a big difference and finding out how LSU adjusts to a smaller stage may very well tell the tale of this game. Instead of a Jan. 8 date, they have a game many will watch as they prepare to countdown the New Year.
LSU came into the year with high expectations and it continued to build on those starting the season 4-0. However, losing to SEC heavyweights Florida, Georgia and Alabama set the stage for a late season collapse.
The biggest reason for the extinction of the once highly successful option attack has been increased defensive speed. In the ACC, Georgia Tech rarely faced teams with top-notch speed. That will change when they face a team with true SEC athletes like LSU. The Tigers defense has limited opponents to 105.8 rushing yards per game, 18th best in the nation. The Yellow Jackets enter the game with the countries' third best rushing attack.
Against the Spread
When it comes to the pay window, these teams are polar opposites. LSU went 2-9 ATS this year while Georgia Tech rewarded its backers with a 7-2-1 ATS season.
Neither team competed in a dome this year but LSU has experience from last year playing indoors. After playing in one dome game during the regular season last year -- a game against Tulane -- LSU closed out its season with a trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC title game and then back to the Louisiana Superdome for the National Championship Game. LSU won all three dome games last year and went 1-1-1 ATS in those games.
The Chick-Fil-A bowl, formerly the Peach Bowl, has seen conference domination come in bunches. After first pitting the SEC and ACC against each other consistently in 1993, the ACC started with four straight wins. The SEC responded with five straight wins from 1996 to 2000. The ACC once again strung together four straight wins and now it is the SEC that has three straight wins in the bowl dating back to 2005 with an LSU 40-3 win over Miami.
LSU has not faced any ACC teams this year. Georgia Tech has faced two SEC teams Mississippi State and Georgia. It defeated them both and covered both spreads.
Seven of the last nine Chick-Fil-A bowls have played under the total with three consecutive underdogs covering and winning the game outright.
What's the Motivation?
Most bowl games often come down to which team actually wants to be there. The big question surrounding this game is what exactly LSU's motivation will be. Many have watched LSU have an absolute meltdown after the Tigers SEC title hopes disappeared after a loss in early November. After losing to then-No. 1 Alabama, LSU needed a 30-point fourth quarter to avoid a shocking upset at home against Troy. The following week on Senior Night the favored Tigers were blown out 31-13 by Ole Miss and then as touchdown favorites they allowed 31 points in a 31-30 loss at Arkansas.
The stakes kept getting lower and lower for an LSU team that is not used to being in meaningless games.
The Defense Rests
The much-maligned LSU defense has been tagged for 50+ points twice this season and has allowed 31 points in three consecutive weeks to close the season. The Georgia Tech defense is full of NFL potential and the unit is ranked in the Top 25 in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and points allowed.
Both teams can claim home games for this bowl game. LSU has experience playing in a dome while Georgia Tech can literally walk to the game from its campus. LSU this season is 0-7 ATS at home while Georgia Tech is 3-1-1 ATS at home.