By Steve Lansdale
NEW ORLEANS, La. — The Texas Longhorns will be spending New Year’s Day in New Orleans.
A day after falling to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, the Texas Longhorns got some good news when it was announced that UT will face Georgia in the 85th annual AllState Sugar Bowl. The game will be played at 7:45 p.m. (central time) Jan. 1 at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
“(I am) extremely excited to be one of the very few select teams to participate in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “To have it be the prestigious Sugar Bowl is just icing on the cake. Really proud of our team for what they’ve accomplished, although certainly disappointed with the outcome in our championship game yesterday. This is a definite reward for them and the season that they’ve had.”
Herman’s counterpart in the game, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, said his past experiences in the Sugar Bowl only increase his excitement about the matchup.
“This will be an outstanding experience for our coaches, players, and fans," Smart said. "Most of our coaches and none of our players have had the opportunity of a Sugar Bowl trip and I'm especially proud for our seniors who have worked so hard over the last 12 months. It also presents a great opportunity for our fans who have been so supportive of our team throughout the season. I had the opportunity to coach in a couple of Sugar Bowl games and experienced outstanding hospitality, a dynamic city and first class competition. It also represents a great challenge playing a team like Texas who has been one of the country's most accomplished programs in college football history."
The Longhorns and Bulldogs have met just four times. UT has won three of the four previous meetings, although Georgia won the most recent matchup, a 10-9 victory in the Cotton Bowl … in 1984, more than a dozen years before any player on the current team was born.
Nevertheless, Herman said he is familiar with Smart and the program he runs in Athens.
“I know Coach Smart and his program,” Herman said. “I’ve had a chance to speak with him many times over the years and we’ve shared ideas. I watched their championship game and I know what a formidable opponent Georgia will be. I know how he coaches and the level of play we will be competing against. I look forward to seeing him in New Orleans and excited to be a part of it.”
The game is the designated bowl game for the champions of the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference, but Georgia and Texas earned the invitations when SEC champion Alabama and Big 12 champion Oklahoma received spots in the four-team College Football Playoff.
Texas heads to New Orleans with a 9-4 overall record, including a 7-2 mark in Big 12 games, while the Bulldogs head to the Big Easy with a record of 11-2, including a 7-1 record in SEC games.
“Texas and Georgia are two of the marquee names in college football,” Allstate Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said. “Both programs have tremendous history and have strong traveling fan bases. With this matchup we’re to be adding another great chapter to Sugar Bowl history.”
While the Longhorns were disappointed to see their senior class end their careers without winning a Big 12 title, the tradition and pedigree of the game and the Georgia program have them looking forward to one more challenge for the season.
“It’s going to be a ton of fun,” tight end Andrew Beck said. “Our senior class has made it our mission to get this program back to where it needs to be, and this is a reward and justification for all of the hard work. To play my last game in the burnt orange and white in the Sugar Bowl against a great program like Georgia is going to be special.