In Ohio State football history, the Buckeyes have played in 54 postseason bowl games. OSU has played in 13 different bowl games and seen postseason action in 15 different cities.
But a new bowl will be added to the list on Dec. 31 when No. 4 Ohio State takes on No. 1 Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium. That game is one of two that serve as the national semifinals for the College Football Playoff this season. No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 TCU will play in the other semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., also on Dec. 31.
Clearly, the Buckeyes are entering a tough environment as their campus in Athens, Georgia is only 75 miles from Atlanta. Bulldogs fans will easily be in the majority with over 78,000 expected for the Peach Bowl.
The Peach Bowl began in 1968 and was previously played at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and the Georgia Dome before Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017.
The Ohio State men’s basketball team participated in the 2007 NCAA Final Four, which was hosted at the Georgia Dome. The Buckeyes defeated Georgetown in the national semifinal game before falling to Florida in the national championship.
Before the arrival of the College Football Playoff in 2014, the Peach Bowl typically hosted the runner-up teams from the ACC and SEC. In the previous Bowl Championship Series format there were only four bowls: Fiesta, Rose, Orange and Sugar. The expanded CFP and New Years Six rotation allowed the Peach and Cotton bowls to alternate. The Peach Bowl has hosted national semifinal games in the 2016 and 2019 seasons and will do so again in 2025.
The Peach Bowl is the ninth oldest bowl game in college football history. The last 17 Peach Bowl games have sold out, as has this semifinal between Georgia and Ohio State. The ship has donated more than $60 million to charity over the past 20 years.
The Peach Bowl will be part of the 12-team College Football Playoff starting with the 2024 season. Each three-year round is expected to host two quarter-final matches and one semi-final. Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted the 2018 CFB Playoff national championship game and will be a top contender to host the CFP national championship in the coming seasons. It also hosted Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a state-of-the-art domed stadium in downtown Atlanta. It opened in 2016 at a price tag of $1.6 billion. It is the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and, in addition to the Peach Bowl, has also hosted the first weekend neutral site college football games sponsored by Chick-Fil-A in recent seasons. It has also been the annual host of the SEC championship game.
The stadium’s distinguishing feature is its retractable roof, which has a “morenda” of eight translucent, triangular panels. Each of the eight panels operates on two straight and parallel rails; one rail is responsible for moving the panel while the other rail stabilizes the panel.
Below the roof is the “Halo,” a 58-by-1,100-foot (18 by 335 m) ring-shaped video board around its edge. With a total area of 62,350 square feet (5,793 m2), it was described by manufacturer Daktronics as “three times the size of the NFL’s current largest single-screen scoreboard” at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field (also built by Daktronics).
Atlanta is the capital of the state of Georgia. The city is part of a larger metropolitan area of just over six million people, making it the eighth largest metro area in the US.
Ohio State fans will find plenty to see and do in Atlanta, especially around Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Other sites to check out include the Atlanta History Center, Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, World of Coca-Cola, Six Flags over Georgia, Zoo Atlanta and the College Football Hall of Fame. The Peach Bowl will be a fan party inside the Georgia World Congress Center.
On game day, there will be a parade through downtown and the teams will walk through the gathering areas at the Home Depot Patio next to the stadium. Click here for attractions and here for the Peach Bowl schedule of events.
Gary Stokan Peach Bowl, Inc. we had a chance to speak with the CEO, who will be in Columbus next week to meet with OSU officials and appear at a press conference on campus. He shared some information about what OSU fans can see and do when they descend on Atlanta.
Here are excerpts from a Q&A with Gary Stokan.
Q: What is the outlook for Ohio State coming to Atlanta for football for the first time?
Stokan: “I talked to (OSU athletic director) Gene Smith and (Clemson coach) Dabo Swinney. We’ve had Clemson in our bowl game more than any other team. We’ve never had Ohio State. Every year, I’d see them at the beginning of the football season, I’d say : ‘This is the year we’re going to put you guys in the CFP.’ They’re both in the CFP almost every year. We’ve been in it for nine years and we’ve never had Clemson or Ohio State for a playoff game.
“I just saw Gene in Las Vegas and we hugged. I saw him at the Wisconsin game and said maybe this will be the year we have Ohio State in Atlanta. We are excited to be a brand for Ohio State and all the fans. People here believe that Georgia will bring a lot of people, and they will.
“But I said, ‘Wait until you see how many people come to Ohio State Atlanta, whether they have a ticket or not.’ I’ve seen over 25 years of people going to bowl games with a tremendous support system. No. 1 against No. 4 and two players for the Heisman Trophy and To have so many future NFL players – let alone Ryan Day and Gene Smith, who are prime guys to work with – we couldn’t have written a better script.”
Q: Ticket allocation, do schools get the same number of tickets? How does it all work?
Stokan: “Each school gets 13,000 tickets starting at the 50-yard line. Five hundred of those go to the band, so they have 12,500 for the fans. Obviously, there’s a secondary market. We sold out in July. I know there will be a lot of reds.
“Georgia will wear red and Ohio State will wear its white and gray. There will be a lot of red at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on New Year’s Eve.”
Q: Ticket costs seemed pretty reasonable with a face value of $150 to $300. It’s not a huge price, it doesn’t feel like it.
Stokan: “Yeah, our deal with CFP, we all sat down and talked about the allocation of cards and what price would be fair. In the secondary market, we don’t control those. The original face value of the card is definitely something that’s easy to digest, for a better term. because there isn’t”.
Q: What do you say to Ohio State fans who are worried about Georgia fans going overboard and being outnumbered by three or four? It could almost be like the game is being played on campus in Athens and OSU fans could be harassed by the amount of Georgia people that will be there.
Stokan: “I don’t think that will be the case. Between our sponsors and what we have for ESPN, the conferences and the CFP and then the two ticket allocations, I think it’s just a toss-up in the secondary market as to who buys the tickets. We don’t award Georgia more entries than Ohio State. I don’t think that will be the case.
“I know Ohio State has a large contingent of graduates here in Atlanta and the Southeast. I see a lot of them coming to the game in big numbers as well.”
Q: What are some of the great attractions that Ohio State fans can see and do in downtown Atlanta and the metro area during the several days after Christmas?
Stokan: “Atlanta is a great place to be during the holidays. There are not many people in the center of the city, so it’s a lot of fun. There’s the Ohio State Omni (hotel), which is adjacent to the College Football Hall of Fame, which is a must-see.
“That’s 100 meters from the biggest aquarium in the world, and that’s another must-see. Centennial Olympic Park is a pleasant walk. That’s on par with the Omni. You have the Civil Rights Center and the CNN Center there. All of these must be done. The shopping is great and there are great restaurants in Atlanta.
“During the day of the game, we will have a parade that will go from Centennial Olympic Park, past the Omni and into the Georgia World Convention Center. We will probably have 35,000 people there for the fan party with all kinds of activities and games. The teams will be there, both Ohio State and Georgia, with the animators
“Then, two hours before the game, we go out to the yard at Home Depot. The teams will disembark by bus and go to the Mercedes-Benz stadium among the fans. Then it will start at 20:00. It’s a great time to be in Atlanta. There will be great things to see on foot.
“People staying at the Omni can literally go to the game. It’s only 200 or 300 yards from the Omni to the stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center and the Home Depot Backyard.”
Q: It seems to me that it goes from one thing to another in the center.
Stokan: “Yes, one of the things we’re blessed with in downtown Atlanta is that we have 13,000 hotel rooms downtown. We have three interstates that cross downtown and we have the largest airport in the world. People can travel here easily from anywhere. You can be downtown and not have to rent a car and you can walk and everything is close, not only the attractions, but also the facilities where we play.
“This also applies to restaurants. It’s a walking experience. Best location – I’ve been in sports for 44 years and been to many Final Fours in Indianapolis – It’s similar to Indy with hotels and walkability. But we have a lot more attractions than Indy. We are only a bigger city and there are many more restaurants. It’s a great trip for people to come to Atlanta that time of year.”
Q: You have been at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium since 2017. What stands out in that stadium?
Stokan: “It’s a great facility and it’s fan-friendly. The cost of the concession is really cheap. People can come in there and get a Coke for, I think, a dollar and get a refill. They can get food for five dollars. It’s not a facility you walk into. one of those and it’s $20 for a coke and $25 for a burger.
“Give (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank credit. He has made the fan experience and the facilities for all the fans.’
Q: The Peach Bowl went to New Years’ Six in 2014. When it went from four ships to six, it looked like a natural ship and city. It looks like you took the ball and ran with it. What has this increase meant for the Peach Bowl?
Stokan: “We were founded in 1968 and we are the ninth oldest bowling game. We were created to give back to charity, unlike other ships that were created for tourism. This year, we will provide $100 million in economic impact to the city of Atlanta with our two inaugural Chick-Fil-A games and the Peach Bowl.
“I started here in 1998. Our first game was Georgia-Virginia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the paper here, called us a “third-rate bowl game.” In 2006, we bid for the BCS national championship game, but moved to a rotating host model with the four existing BCS bowls.
“Also in 2006, the NCAA made it a permanent 12th game in the regular season. I said, ‘Well, if they don’t let us into the BCS on the back end, we’re going to start the BCS on the front end of the season.’ .I called it college football’s Daytona 500. Before that, the first three games people would schedule at non-directional schools and they were slaying games and the TV ratings were terrible.
“We started with Alabama-Clemson and it just went up from there. Changing the face of college football programming with those early games was important. Second, we brought the College Football Hall of Fame from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta in 2011. I think that changed the perspective of college football.
“We built a great reputation. We worked hard to build strong relationships and when we had the opportunity to join the CFP (in 2014) … we worked hard to bring Super Bowls and Final Fours and Wrestlemania, we brought a bunch of events to Atlanta. And that in addition to hosting the Olympics in 1996, with all the corporate support we had, all of that became a great recipe for what many people consider to be the capital of college football.
“We have worked hard and we have worked strategically. We’ve also continued our mission of being the most charitable of the 44 bowls by giving $60 million to charity since 2002, which is probably double what other bowls have done collectively.”
Q: Obviously, the CFB Playoff will go to 12 teams in 2024. How will the Peach Bowl and other top bowls fit into that rotation?
Stokan: “The 12-team playoffs start in 2024-25. That’s all we know right now, because the contract is for the 2025 season. In 2024, we’ll host a quarterfinal game. Then in 2025, we’ll host the national championship game for the 2024 season. Then in December 2025, we will host the national semi-final match.
“We know that according to the existing contract. As we move forward, what was presented by the committee was to have the six New Year’s bowl games be quarter-finals for two years and then have a semi-final every third year.’
Q: With so many neutral site games coming up in the playoffs, was there any pushback or was there any thought of pricing the average fan out? I know that shipping is just one component along with travel costs and hotel costs. But how can you make these games affordable for the average fan? How can people afford a neutral site for the conference championship and possibly three more neutral sites for the playoffs? Is there a chance that the stadium will end up half empty?
Stokan: “Well, one of the unintended consequences of making the playoffs is the NFL giving players the draft and a $20 million signing bonus with a conference championship and three playoff games. It could be tough that way.
“But with all those games, you also have Christmas for the fans in between. It’s definitely something to consider, with ticket prices and all. We do this for student-athlete participation, but we also do it for fan participation.
“College football is the second most popular sport in the US behind the NFL. We need to maintain that relationship with the fans who are so important to the game.”
Q: Late December weather, what can Ohio State fans expect?
Stokan: “It’s usually in the 50s, but it can be hotter. Four of the last five years, we’ve been in the 60s. I will tell you it will be 72 degrees inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the roof closed. People won’t have to worry about that.”
Q: Can fans bring golf clubs to try and score a few rounds?
Stokan: “Oh, yes, you can play golf here at that time of year. We’re still golfing down here.”