"Our kids are excited about the opportunity to come to Atlanta, to play in a game like this on a Friday night against an SEC football powerhouse," O'Brien said on Tuesday. "It's a great opportunity, and that's how we're looking at it."
Atlantic Coast Conference teams have struggled to win high-profile, nonconference games, particularly against the SEC. While this game is big for the league, O'Brien knows that it is even more important for his football team.
"It's not lost on me that we have to start winning games like this," said O'Brien. "I think it [would] be a departure from what has happened in the last couple of seasons. There have been other high-profile non-conference games, but we haven't won any.
"That creates talking points for everybody else in recruiting against the ACC. We're playing this game for our football team, students and alumni, and then we're going to play it for the ACC."
This game will also be a gauge for where the Wolfpack stands to start the season, as they enter 2012 a trendy pick to make a run at the ACC title.
"Head coaches right now just look forward to playing in the first game because you've played against yourself so much you're not sure what you have," said O'Brien. "In an opener against a team like Tennessee, you end up trying to make sure that you cover everything.
"A lot of the questions that we have about ourselves will be answered for us after we get through this first game."
Ramifications from a big win over Tennessee could most certainly be felt on the recruiting trail. Elite high school prospects have flocked to the SEC in recent years, with several in-state prospects leaving to play college football away from home.
While O'Brien admits that he doesn't recruit against the SEC as much as other ACC programs might do, he knows that the SEC's success has made it hard to contend with them leading up to national signing day.
"[The SEC's success is] difficult to deal with," O'Brien said. "We do [recruit against SEC schools], but not as much as some of our southern members do, schools in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
"They talk about it all the time, so it's something we have to be aware of. Winning all those national championships adds validity to their argument."