Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan wanted to make one thing perfectly clear - the Georgia Bulldogs were the slam-dunk choice of the search committee to represent the SEC in the Capital One Bowl set for Jan. 1 in Orlando.
As for those rumors about Texas A&M being the original choice?
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Hogan said during a teleconference Sunday night, along with Bulldog head coach Mark Richt and athletic director Greg McGarity.
"You sit back in your office and come across some of these things on line and kind of chuckle because you don't know where these experts get their information," Hogan said. "For us, we want to see the season play out, we want to see the championship game play out so it was an easy decision."
McGarity said the Bulldogs were happy to accept the Capital One's invitation, adding - to his knowledge - there was never any discussion for the Bulldogs to head west to the Cotton Bowl.
"I think traditionally our fans have loved a locale that they can get to closer. The weather is going to be fantastic," McGarity said. "Obviously the Cotton Bowl has taken a Western team the majority of the team except for Tennessee a couple of years. If you look at the lineup in the bowls in the SEC, the first pick is the Capital One after the BCS bowls are chosen and we feel privileged to be in that spot. Obviously, you want to be in the highest seeded bowl if we can't be in the BCS, so we're right where we want to be."
Of the non-BCS bowls, the Capital One boasts the highest payout of all the other games with each school getting $4.25 million compared to just over $3 million per team for the Cotton.
This will be Georgia's first appearance in the Capital One since 2009 when the Bulldogs defeated Michigan State.
McGarity denied lobbying the SEC to send the Bulldogs to Dallas.
"We were notified today that we would be invited to play in the bowl game and we were very happy to accept it. What happens behind the scenes, I really could not tell. The institutions are not really able to do any lobbying," he said. "It's really not our place to do that. That's done by the bowl committee and others. We're just glad to be selected what is really the top-rated bowl after the BCS bowls. We're excited to play a great institution like Nebraska and I think our fans will have a great time in Orlando."
That said, McGarity was also very clear to say that Georgia deserved to be in a BCS bowl.
"I know Florida finished third and by virtue of that it blocked out us without any discussion, but there's no question we played great the last half of the season and just to see the way we laid it on the line (Saturday) proved we're right there along with the best in college football," McGarity said. "I know we're still all hurting a little bit right now but the sun came up this morning and there's nothing we can do about it but learn from it and move forward."
Hogan said the Capital One Bowl and Florida Citrus Sports absolutely have no regrets when it comes to the Bulldogs.
"What you really have to focus on in our business, if you look at our history, with the first pick in the SEC and the Big Ten, we've hosted the championship game representative more than anybody else in the lineup," Hogan said. "We pick first, we've always paid out the most, and in the end it's about the kids who work their butts off, some for five years and how it ended on the field. Those are the guys you need to focus on and that takes care of itself. If that comes along with a fun story, that's fine, but the most important thing to our committee was Georgia deserved this trip. We're fortunate to have a team that is of BCS quality and we believe we're going to give them a BCS quality bowl. That's just the way that we do it."
As for the Bulldogs, the New Year's Day contest holds special meaning for Richt, who was born in Nebraska.
"All my cousins on that side of the family are big Husker fans," Richt said. "They like the Dawgs, too, but they call us the "Corndawgs," actually. It will be fun for my family."
Nebraska was blown out by Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship 70-31, but the Cornhuskers (10-3) have an outstanding offense, led by Taylor Martinez, who is the Huskers' all-time career leader in total offense with more than 9,000 yards. The junior quarterback pairs with running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah to lead the most explosive ground game in the Big Ten this season, averaging 254 yards per game.
As for the Bulldogs, Richt said the Cornhuskers will be a team that his squad will be eager to play and dismissed the notion they wouldn't be excited after just missing out on a trip to the BCS championship.
"I just think we've got a bunch of great seniors who are very good men of character. They love the game of football. They enjoy playing and they enjoy playing with their teammate so I don't think it's going to be that great of a challenge quite frankly," Richt said. "The venues are going to be exciting for our guys, and I think playing Nebraska will get everybody's blood pumping, so I don't think it's going to be an issue. I think our guys will want to finish strong. There aren't many teams in the history of Georgia to have ever won 12 games and I know our guys want to finish on a high note so I don't think it will be a problem."
NOTES: Richt said the Bulldogs will practice next Saturday before taking time off for final exams.
According to Richt, he does not expect any of Georgia's early enrollees to take part in bowl practice while the team is in Athens. Early enrollees are no longer allowed to practice with team at their bowl sites. ... Georgia fell to sixth in the final BCS standings.