Clemson, S.C.--Clemson (6-5) will meet Mississippi State (9-2) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on December 30, 1999, President Gary Stokan announced on Sunday. Clemson had been selected last Monday for the event, which will be held in the Georgia Dome.
Mississippi State enters the game with a 9-2 record, including five wins by a field goal or less. The only teams to defeat the Bulldogs are SEC Champion Alabama (19-7) and Arkansas (14-9). They defeated rival Mississippi by a 23-20 score on November 25 in their final regular season game.
"We wanted to play the highest ranked team, and the Peach Bowl should be commended for getting the highest ranked team available," Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden said. "Mississippi State is very deserving of its #15 (Associated Press) national ranking. It will be a great challenge for our team.
"What a challenge for our offense! We have already had to play four of the top 18 defenses in the country (total defense) in Virginia Tech, Marshall, Florida State and South Carolina, now we will go against #1. They rank in the top six in the country in every defensive category, including first in total defense and first in rushing defense. They are very unpredictable on defense, you don't know where their front seven will lineup. They try to take away the high percentage pass and make you throw the ball down field. Only two teams have scored 20 points against them all year.
"On offense, they are like an old style SEC football team. They are going to run right at you behind that big offensive line. They average about 320 pounds per man across their five interior linemen. We are the lightest offensive line in the country and they must be the biggest. Their quarter (Madkins) has been effective and made clutch plays throughout the season. He knows how to win."
This will be the third meeting in history between Clemson and Mississippi State. The Tigers hold a 1-0-1 lead in the series. Clemson won at Mississippi State in 1948 by a 21-7 count, an important win in Clemson's 11-0 season. Then the two teams played to a 7-7 tie in Death Valley the next season.
This will be the first time the two teams have met in a bowl game, but the second time Clemson has faced Bulldogs Coach Jackie Sherrill. In 1977, Sherrill was the head coach at Pittsburgh and his Panther team defeated Clemson 34-3 in the Gator Bowl. Clemson first year coaches are 5-1 in bowl games and that loss to Sherrill and the Panthers is the one loss. Then Clemson coach Charley Pell was the head coach of the Tigers that year.
Clemson will be making its fifth appearance in the Peach Bowl, its fourth appearance in the 1990s. Clemson is 1-3 in its previous three Peach Bowls. This will be the third straight time Clemson has had to face a nine-win SEC team in the Peach Bowl. LSU was 9-2 heading into the game at the end of the 1996 season, while Auburn was 9-3 heading into the game at the end of the 1997 season.
Head Coach Tommy Bowden will face a stiff defensive challenge against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs rank number-one in the nation in rushing defense and total defense, and are fourth in pass defense and sixth in scoring defense.
The top tackler for Sherrill's defense is Darrin Simpson, who has 105 tackles in 11 games. Ashley Cooper has 76 tackles and a team best 10 passes broken up. Fred Smoot leads the secondary with five interceptions.
The offense is led by quarterback Wayne Madkins who has completed 135 of 257 passes for 1884 yards. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes . His favorite target is Kelvin Love, who has caught 43 passes for 834 yards, a 19.4 average. Dontae Walker is leading rusher with 76 for 384 yards and three scores.
The two teams have just one common opponent, South Carolina. Mississippi State defeated the Gamecocks in Starkville, 17-0, while Clemson defeated Lou Holtz's team 31-21 in Columbia.
This will be Mississippi State's 11th bowl appearance in history. The Bulldogs are 4-6 overall, including an 0-2 record in the Peach Bowl. At the end of the 1992 season, North Carolina defeated Mississippi State, 21-17, and two years later North Carolina State defeated the Bulldogs, 28-24.