In the case of neutral-site regular-season openers, Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan goes straight to the highest when he makes his case for his or her continued enchantment in school soccer.
“I feel going again to once we began these in 2008, Alabama and Clemson had the foresight to play in our first kickoff sport,” Stokan informed Sporting Information. “Whenever you take a look at the highest two applications within the nation proper now it is Clemson and Alabama. Give credit score to these coaches to these ADs, the athletic departments who wish to exit and schedule robust opponents.”
That is clearly not the one purpose the Crimson Tide and Tigers are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in most preseason polls this 12 months, however Stokan has some extent: That 2008 matchup, a 34-10 Alabama win, helped arrange the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff sport in Atlanta for future success.
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Final 12 months, No. 1 Alabama met No. three Florida State on the opening Saturday. This 12 months, No. 6 Washington meets No. 9 Auburn at three:30 p.m. ET on CBS. Whereas No. 14 Michigan at No. 12 Notre Dame is the most important on-campus sport, the matchup between the Huskies and Tigers has larger and extra rapid Faculty Soccer Playoff ramifications. ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index ranked the sport the third most-important by way of the Playoff chase.
Stokan spells out what this sport means for each groups in that regard. If Washington wins then takes the Pac-12 championship, it will be within the Playoff. If Auburns wins, it is a trump card just like what Alabama used final 12 months in the identical spot, when the Tide made the Playoff regardless of not enjoying within the SEC title sport.
After all, it is not good. Washington is touring from the West Coast and enjoying an Auburn staff that might be comparatively shut to dwelling. Washington coach Chris Petersen mentioned it would not really feel like a neutral-site sport except each fan bases need to get on a airplane.
“I might like to play in a neutral-site sport,” Petersen mentioned in the course of the Pac-12 teleconference on Tuesday. “I do not suppose we’re enjoying in a neutral-site sport in any respect. That is very a lot their yard. This might be mainly a dwelling sport on a neutral-site area for them. If it actually is a neutral-site sport, these might be thrilling.”
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The Huskies took the sport, nevertheless, and extra Pac-12 groups are coming. Oregon introduced a date with Georgia within the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Sport final week, and Stokan mentioned the hope is to get extra Pac-12 and even some Huge Ten groups concerned. One of many largest hang-ups in that regard is the Huge Ten and Pac-12, alongside the Huge 12, play nine-game convention schedules. The ACC and SEC every solely play an eight.
Stokan mentioned the enchantment to play in a heavyweight neutral-sight sport advantages the gamers and coaches — who get an early-season take a look at — and this system, which will get the highlight in a recruiting hotbed like Atlanta. That is why neutral-site video games akin to No. 1 Alabama vs. Louisville (Orlando), No. Eight Miami vs. No. 25 LSU (Arlington, Texas) and even Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech (Houston) will all the time have enchantment to athletic administrators. The cash and TV publicity are sometimes an excessive amount of go up.
“I just like the home-and-home and want we had extra of them, however let’s face it, if we did not have a number of the neutral-site matchups, we would not have a few of these intriguing video games the previous few years,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit mentioned. “I feel they’re nice. I applaud the coaches who’re prepared to take them on.”
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No person has adopted that mannequin higher than Alabama beneath Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide are Eight-Zero in neutral-site openers since that first victory towards Clemson in 2008, and that features 5 appearances within the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Sport. Stokan insists the victory towards No. three Florida State final 12 months was a giant purpose why the Alabama held off Ohio State within the remaining Faculty Soccer Playoff rankings.
“It received Alabama within the CFP,” Stokan mentioned. “There isn’t any doubt about it. That was the factor that received Alabama over Ohio State within the CFP. Now Ohio State misplaced to Iowa, however Alabama beating a No. three staff within the nation who on the time that had their QB, that is what received them in.”
The way forward for the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Sport seems to be vivid, too. Alabama will play Duke in 2019 and Miami in 2021. In 2020, the venue may have a triple-header with Florida State-West Virginia (Sept. 5), Georgia-Virginia (Sept. 7) and North Carolina-Auburn (Sept. 12).
“We try to have one of the best opening sport of the season,” Stokan mentioned. “We imagine we’re the capital of school soccer with the Faculty Soccer Corridor of Fame right here and that is the right setting for these video games.”