Tide, Hokies in Georgia Dome

For the third time in 53 weeks, Nick Saban is taking his Alabama team to Atlanta. Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan told the rest of the media what had already been leaked to ESPN and the AJC, the Crimson Tide will face Virginia Tech in the second annual Chick-fil-A College Kickoff.

"Two BCS bowl teams, two we think preseason top 10 teams: we call it the Daytona 500 of college football," Stokan said Friday on a region-wide conference call.

The contest is set for the night of Saturday, Sept 5. That's the first weekend of the 2009 college season next year.

Stokan played up the two coaches involved in the game: Bama's Nick Saban and Tech's Frank Beamer.

"They're two of the top coaches in college football, and there's a reason why," he said, and then he challenged the two schools athletic directors.

"We hope Mal (Moore) and Jim (Weaver of Virginia Tech) come up with a ‘crimson-out' and ‘maroon-out,'' he said, referring the attire of the respective fan bases. Beamer directed Virginia Tech to this year's ACC crown, while Saban's Tide was the runner up in the always-tough SEC.

"I think playing good competition is always good for your team," said coach Saban. "Even if it doesn't work out as a win, you still have an opportunity to learn and improve."

"It's certainly an honor and privilege for us to be invited back to what we think is a first class game in a first class city. It's great exposure for our football players and our football team. It improves our schedule."

"Playing a team like Virginia Tech is a challenge to look forward to. Great competition makes you better, and it really motivated our players to work hard in the off-season (before Clemson). It made our team better. Virginia Tech is a team that has national recognition, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them."

Said Beamer, "Any time you can associate yourselves with a great university like Alabama, it's great. I think our football team and fans will be very excited about it, and it will help us be a better football team (in 2009)."

"The kids we're recruiting want to play in games like this. When we opened the season a few years ago with Southern Cal, our spring practices and our preparation during summer went better."

Beamer's boss, Weaver, agreed.

"The kind of exposure this contest gives the two participating institutions just can't be replaced," he said.

ESPN, as was true with the 2008 Alabama/Clemson game, is very involved, and will carry the game if it's not on ABC-TV.

"Games like this are really great for the sport," said Dave Brown of ESPN. "The atmosphere we had last year for Clemson/Alabama was just second to none."

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