Clemson University

Tigers heading to Chick-fil-A Bowl

CLEMSON -- Boston College won the talent competition, but Clemson prevailed in the beauty pageant.

As expected Sunday, the Chick-fil-A Bowl picked the Tigers over the Eagles for the ACC's top bowl tie-in beyond the BCS.

Clemson (9-3) will face No. 22 Auburn (8-4) Dec. 31 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta as much because of both programs' marketability as productivity.

"We've got a lot of players from Georgia, a lot of family will be there, and playing a team like Auburn with a lot of tradition, I think our players will be very excited about going," coach Tommy Bowden said.

The 7:30 p.m. New Year's Eve match-up will pit a pair of Tigers with coaches named Tommy (including Auburn's Tuberville) whose teams finished second in their conference divisions and are coming off victories against their instate rivals.

Without coincidence, the momentum generated by the latter is only expected to fuel the rabid fan bases that follow both schools -- and ultimately made Clemson the predictable choice over a Boston College squad that beat it to reach the ACC championship game.

"That was one of the issues we considered, but not the overall issue," bowl president Gary Stokan said.

Living up to its reputation as postseason pariah, Boston College reportedly sold fewer than 4,000 of their allotted 10,000 tickets for the ACC title game, thereby convincing conference officials to sign off on both the Chick-fil-A and Gator bowls bypassing the Eagles for more lucrative options.

Boston College had a better league record by one game (6-2 ACC) and sits one spot ahead of No. 15 Clemson in the latest AP poll and BCS rankings.

Yet it was likewise shunned by the Gator Bowl as well, which snagged Virginia to avoid the invariable box-office blow that would come from inviting the Eagles back to Jacksonville for the second time in a month.

While the Chick-fil-A has sold out for 10 straight years -- and figures to make it 11 -- there were decisive concerns whether Boston College could make a dent in the nearly 33,000 tickets reserved for the participating teams, which subsequently varied roles in funding the bowl's $3.3 million payout to the ACC.

Clemson was allocated 17,500 tickets -- 1,800 more than Auburn -- and is already well on its way to justifying the financial aspect of the Chick-fil-A's decision.

IPTAY members had pre-ordered 12,000 tickets before the team's selection, leaving roughly 5,000 for donors when the ticket office opens this morning.

"Those will go in a hurry," Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said.

Outside of the schools' allotments, fewer than 1,000 tickets remained as of Sunday night.

Had Boston College been chosen, Clemson likely would have gone to the Gator to meet Texas Tech in a rematch of the 2002 Tangerine Bowl.

Although still an opponent with name recognition, it lacked the panache of facing an SEC foe like Auburn.

And considering a number of returning Clemson players have since said there were numerous players going through the motions in last year's Music City Bowl loss to Kentucky, junior receiver Aaron Kelly said the Tigers should have no problem mustering motivation this time around.

"We have some momentum going into this game," Kelly said. It's not a bowl game we fell into. It's a game we earned."

• When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31

• Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.

• TV: ESPN (cable channel 25 in Rock Hill)

• Tickets: chick-fil-abowl.com or 1-800-CLEMSON

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