ATLANTA - Today 233 miles separate Blacksburg, Va., from Knoxville, Tenn., but on New Year's Eve, No. 12 Virginia Tech and Tennessee will be 12 inches apart - about the length of a football - when the two historic rivals clash in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl today officially extended invitations to the Hokies and Volunteers to represent the ACC and SEC in the 42nd annual edition of Atlanta's bowl game Dec. 31 in the Georgia Dome. The invitations were accepted by Virginia Tech and Tennessee officials during conference calls early this evening.
Virginia Tech and Tennessee have met seven times dating back to 1896 with the Volunteers holding a 5-2 advantage. The two regional rivals have not met since 1994.
"This really is a dream match-up," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "To have the opportunity to host two nationally significant and traditional teams in Virginia Tech and Tennessee says a lot about the quality of this game. We feel like we've got one of the most compelling match-ups outside the BCS."
Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2 ACC) won four straight games to finish the season second in the ACC's Coastal Division just a game behind conference champion and BCS representative Georgia Tech. The Hokies will bring the ACC's top-rated scoring defense (15.8 ppg), passing defense (161.4 ypg) and the conference's Rookie of the Year, tailback Ryan Williams (1,538 rushing yards, 20 TDs). This will mark the Hokies’ third trip to Atlanta this season after beginning the year against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and facing Georgia Tech on Oct. 17.
"We feel fortunate to be going back to the Chick-fil-A Bowl," said Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech head coach. "It is an extremely well-run bowl in which we'll be facing a tradition-rich University of Tennessee football team. I know our fans will be excited and we look forward to traveling to Atlanta for the game."
"Virginia Tech is very pleased and proud to have been selected to play in the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl," said Jim Weaver, Virginia Tech Director of Athletics. "We had a wonderful experience there after the 2006 season and had another great experience when we played Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game this fall. Our fans love Atlanta and are looking forward to the game between the Hokies and the Volunteers of Tennessee."
Virginia Tech has appeared in the Chick-fil-A Bowl three times (2006, 1986, 1980) and is 1-2.
Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 SEC) finished tied for second in the SEC East playing the 25th hardest schedule in the country. UT will be making its 48th all-time bowl appearance (third-most among FBS teams) and comes into the game winners in four of its last five games. The Volunteers sport standout quarterback Jonathan Crompton (2nd in SEC with 26 TD passes), reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year CB Eric Berry and fiery first-year coach Lane Kiffin.
Most significantly, the Vols won the head-to-head match-ups with three other teams the Chick-fil-A Bowl was considering including Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina.
"We're really excited to be going to Atlanta for a great bowl game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl," said Lane Kiffin, Tennessee head coach. "Not only is this a great bowl game, but we have many players from the Atlanta area and the state of Georgia. It's a great location for us to be this postseason. We look forward to playing in a first-class bowl game and first-class facility."
"We're excited about the opportunity to return to the Chick-fil-A Bowl and play a tremendous opponent in Virginia Tech," said Mike Hamilton, Tennessee director of athletics. "Gary Stokan and his staff have always done a tremendous job of hosting teams, coaches, administrators and fans. We are looking forward to spending a wonderful week in Atlanta."
This will mark the Volunteers' fifth appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Tennessee has appeared in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 1982, 1986, 2002 and 2003 and is 1-3.
All pre-orders for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl through the Virginia Tech Athletics Ticket Office have been filled and tickets are still available to the public. Ticket prices for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl range from $60 to $80 and orders will be placed on first come, first serve basis. To order your tickets or for more information, log on to hokietickets.com or call the Virginia Tech Athletics Ticket Office at (540) 231-6731 or toll-free at 1-800 VA TECH4 (1-800-828-3244).
The Chick-fil-A Bowl will be played at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome and will be nationally televised by ESPN, running unopposed in its prime time slot.
For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).