ATLANTA -- Two of the nation’s most exciting quarterbacks will be on display in the Orange Bowl, which Sunday invited Georgia Tech and Mississippi State to play in the New Year’s Eve game in Miami.
Georgia Tech (10-3) features sophomore Justin Thomas, with Mississippi State (10-2) led by Dak Prescott, a finalist for the Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Quarterback Award.
Georgia Tech was expected to be Orange Bowl-bound after it lost to Florida State in the ACC championship game on Saturday night. The win earned FSU a spot in the College Football Playoff and left the Yellow Jackets in the slot reserved for the ACC.
Mississippi State finished seventh in the final College Football Playoff rankings. Georgia Tech was 12th.
“One of our goals is to get to the Orange Bowl every year,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “Everybody in Atlanta and at Georgia Tech understands the hospitality when you come to Miami, and everybody who supports Georgia Tech is excited to go.”
The game has the potential to be an offensive showcase. Georgia Tech ranks third in the nation in rushing yards (333.6 per game) and first in third-down efficiency (57.0 percent). The Yellow Jackets average 37 points and 468 yards per game. Thomas is fourth in the nation among rushing quarterbacks with 965 yards and has thrown 17 touchdown passes.
Mississippi State won 10 games for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs broke the program record for most points scored and most yards in a single season. They rank fifth in the nation in total offense (506.2 yards) and 15th in scoring offense (37.2 points).
Prescott is fifth in the country in rushing yards among quarterbacks with 939 yards and has 13 rushing touchdowns. The Bulldogs also have a big-time runner in Josh Robinson, who has rushed for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I had the opportunity to watch them play, and I’ve been impressed,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows about Prescott, and they’ve got a tremendous team with a lot of outstanding individual players.”
Georgia Tech will be making its seventh appearance in the Orange Bowl and the first since 2009, when the Yellow Jackets lost to Iowa. They are 3-3 in the Orange Bowl. Mississippi State is 1-1 in the Orange Bowl and will be going for the first time since 1941.
Georgia Tech and Mississippi State have played only four times, with Georgia Tech winning all the previous meetings. They last played in 2009, when the Yellow Jackets scored a 42-31 victory in Dan Mullen’s first year as the Missississppi State head coach.
“For us, this is an unbelievable destination,” Mullen said. “If you asked our players, this was their No. 1 destination.”