Stokan Says Auburn-Clemson An Exciting Start

Gary Stokan talks about Auburn-Clemson facing off in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Sept. 1 at the Georgia Dome.

When the Auburn Tigers take on Clemson in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 1, it will be one of the top early games in college football this season and the excitement surrounding the game is rolling toward a fever pitch said Chick-Fil-A Bowl President Gary Stokan.

With Auburn and Clemson splitting the series the last two seasons with each team winning on its home field, Stokan said game officials are excited to have the tiebreaker taking place in the dome.

"This is obviously the kickoff to college football and talking to Auburn this week they have sold out of all 31,500 tickets," Stokan said. "The Auburn people love coming to Atlanta. They come to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and now the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

"I think it's a great opportunity for Auburn to start the year in a meaningful manner," he added. "It's the rubber match of Auburn-Clemson and I think Auburn winning that game would set them up for a really special season."

With Auburn leading the series 34-12-2 heading into the 2012 season, Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers are hoping to take the upper hand once again in the final game of a series the SEC team has dominated for decades. Two teams that are similar in many ways, Stokan said it's just fun to be a part of a game that means so much to college football in the South.

"To have the rubber match of Auburn-Clemson is very interesting," he noted. "Talking with Jay (Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs) and Terry Don (Terry Don Phillips, Clemson's athletic) when we originally started the kickoff game, they liked the idea so much that they scheduled a home-and-home. It worked out that we wanted to do the rubber match when it could be scheduled. This is the year that it worked out they could play each other.

"We're awfully happy to have that rubber match and have that rivalry game in Atlanta," Stokan said. "I think it will be great for college football, great TV ratings and an electric atmosphere in the Georgia Dome."

Onterio McCalebb celebrates his MVP honor in Auburn's win over Virginia in last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Part of a two-day kickoff to the season with Tennessee facing off against North Carolina State the night before, Stokan said he's looking forward to seeing how everything works out with two games in two days at the same location.

"I don't know that it has ever been done with two games in 24 hours and both games sold out," he said. "It's going to be great for college football, great for the fans. As we open the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014 we'll have the enshrinement ceremonies to add to this. I think the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Games are going to grow in relevancy because the two criteria that they're talking about with the new four-team playoff is ‘did you win your conference championship and what is your strength of schedule'?"

Stokan and the City of Atlanta are hoping that his year's doubleheader and the support that has been shown for both the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and SEC Championship Game will go a long way towards putting the city in a good position for the upcoming national championship final four for football.

"We hope through the bid process that we can successfully bid to host one of the host bowl games so we can get access to having four semi-finals over the 12 years and then having two Top 12 teams play on an annual basis," he said. "The other bid would be for the championship game. We hope that we can successfully bid for that and host a national championship game on a rotational basis over the 12 years.

"Having the College Football Hall of Fame, having the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Games, having the SEC Championship, having a semi-final game and ultimately having a championship game, I don't think it would leave any doubt that Atlanta would be the college football capital of the world."

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