Sports

Alabama-Virginia Tech to open at Georgia Dome

ATLANTA | Alabama enjoyed so much success in its 2008 opener at the Georgia Dome that it will return to Atlanta for a repeat visit next season.

Alabama will play Virginia Tech on Sept. 5 in the Georgia Dome in the 2009 opener for each team.

Alabama beat then-No. 9 Clemson 34-10 at the Georgia Dome to open its 2008 season. The Crimson Tide rode the momentum gained from the win to go through the regular season without a loss. Alabama rose to No. 1 before returning to the Georgia Dome to lose to Florida 31-20 in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 6.

"Going to the game and playing Clemson, which was a top 10 team, really motivated our players on the offseason to work hard," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Friday. "I think it really made our team better. ... I think that game played a significant role in helping us do that."

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he expects his team will receive a similar lift from the game, called the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff.

"I really believe it will help our offseason, our spring practice, our summer practice and our preseason practice," Beamer said.

"I think the kids we're recruiting, the kids Nick is recruiting, they want to play games like this."

The game is organized by the Chick-fil-A Bowl committee.

Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan said he expects Alabama and Virginia Tech will be top 10 teams when they play in what he called "the Daytona 500 of college football."

Stokan said last year's sellout was a success, and he said Alabama and Virginia Tech are expected to each earn more than $2 million from the 2009 opener. The game will be televised by ESPN or ABC.

Each team will receive approximately 31,700 tickets, according to Stokan.

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said his team adjusted its schedule by rescheduling a planned game against Cincinnati for a future year. Weaver said the change was easy since Virginia Tech will play Cincinnati in the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl.

ESPN's Dave Brown said he assisted Cincinnati in finding Illinois as a replacement for Virginia Tech on Cincinnati's 2009 schedule.

Alabama already was looking for a 12th regular-season game, making it a good fit for a return visit to Atlanta.

Stokan said an Alabama-Virginia Tech matchup was the goal from the start.

"The mission as Dave Brown and I have talked is the best matchup that first weekend, on Saturday night, irrespective of ACC-SEC," Stokan said. "We just want the best matchup we can put together on that first weekend of college football."

Alabama is preparing to play Utah in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl.

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