This year was going to be a bonanza for business around Centennial Park in Atlanta with the Final Four in April and then an extravagant college football showcase in September with three Power 5 games: West Virginia vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Virginia, Auburn vs. North Carolina.
All of it was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic costing millions in lost revenue.
The restaurants and hotels in one of the most vibrant sports districts in the U.S., which locals call the Sports Capital of the U.S., are crossing their fingers they have one more swing at a decent payday.
If things fall into place, they might. If the season ended today, unbeaten and No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0) and its high-powered offense would face No. 9 Georgia (5-2) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1, at 12:30 p.m.
The College Football Playoff is in the first year of a 6-year cycle where the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl are obligated to take the highest ranked team among the schools that make up the Group of 5 conferences (American, Sun Belt, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West). A source close to the machinations of the CFP confirmed the Bearcats would head down I-75 460 miles for the game, if records stand, which is likely if UC and UGa play to form.
Georgia would come to Atlanta, partly because it would deserve a New Year’s Six Bowl, but also because of “Bowl Season’ officials’ desire to keep teams close to home with the pandemic still raging.
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Cincinnati, no doubt, will claim it has a rightful place in the four-team College Football Playoff if it wins out in a regular season final with No. 25 Tulsa and a rematch with Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. UC’s game with Temple was cancelled this week because of a spike in Covid-19 cases on the UC campus.
Georgia had College Football Playoff aspirations, too, but its defense could not hold off the passing games of Alabama and Florida and the Bulldogs struggled at quarterback in the two losses. Still, the Peach Bowl is one of the coveted New Year’s Six Bowl games with normally good payouts and a national television spotlight.
The Bulldogs (5-2) have found new traction on offense with transfer quarterback J.T. Daniels. The redshirt sophomore completed 28 of 38 passes for 401yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 victory over Mississippi State. He gets a chance to grow into the position even more in two remaining games against South Carolina BKSC (2-6) and Vanderbilt (0-7). The Gamecocks and Commodores have pass defenses rated 11th and 12th, respectively, in the SEC.
Daniels better be on because Cincinnati will be motivated by an expected CFP snub and will bring a shootout ethos to the game. Head coach Luke Fickell, in his fourth season at UC, has an offense that averages 41 points a game and 7.1 yards per play. Fickell, a former assistant under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, is already a candidate for a job in the Power 5. If he doesn’t have a $4 million a year contract by the Peach Bowl, he certainly will have one if his team beats Georgia.
The revenue for the game would not be anywhere close to what it would be in a normal season, but it could still give some life to the restaurant industry. The Georgia Restaurant Association estimates 30 percent of restaurants in Georgia could close in 2020.
UC fans, even without a ticket to the game, could still make the trek down to Atlanta and watch the game from outdoor seating just to feel the vibe. There is also plenty of hotel space within easy walking distance. Not all of the country has bought into the severity of the pandemic and that could mean visitors for three days, if city officials allow it.
The Peach Bowl and Mercedes-Benz Stadium have not announced how many fans will be allowed in the 71,000-seat stadium. The Falcons are allowing a limited number of fans in the stadium on Sunday for their game with the Raiders.
Source: Forbes – Business