Auburn has come back to earth after their BCS National Championship last season, while Virginia has exploded in Mike London's rookie season as head coach. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl will feature a Tiger team looking for an identity post-Cam and a Wahoo team that surprised the ACC but didn't quite reach the levels of the conference elite (a 34-0 loss to rival Virginia Tech confirms that).
Game date, time: 7:30 pm ET, Saturday, December 31
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
TV channel: ESPN
2010 winner and loser: FSU 26 - South Carolina 17
2011 Virginia Highlights: Mike London's inaugural season started with little fanfare - at 2-2, the Wahoos lost to eventual C-USA Champion Southern Miss and dropped their first conference game to North Carolina. But the Cavs would draw national attention during a 6-1 run through the meat of their schedule, and entered their season finale against Virginia Tech with a chance to play the in the conference title for the first time in school history before the Hokies would win in a 34-0 blowout.
2011 Auburn Highlights: The defending BCS National Champions were expected to be basement dwellers this season, and nearly were right out of the gate: The Tigers avoided a devastating first-week scare against Utah State and handled themselves well in the SEC, despite losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. Their most notable win of the season was a three point upset of would-be SEC East Champion South Carolina, but eventually the expected "reloading phase" came to be a reality, in blowout losses to LSU, Georgia and Alabama.
What To Watch For: Virginia's rushing defense against Auburn's running game. The absence of Newton was certainly felt (AU is below 100th nationally in passing and total offense), but the Tigers can run the ball. Michael Dyer is averaging 103 yards a game and has scored 10 touchdowns this season. Virginia's defense has quietly become one of the ACC's best, and are allowing only 128 yards rushing a game. Both teams will want to manage the clock above all else.