As are most things in our hyper-driven social media culture, the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) tag is overused and misused. Let’s face it folks, there just ain’t that many things in life that are the “G.O.A.T.”
This one is.
Today the preseason Associated Press poll, which is voted on by 61 ultra-wise members of the media, was released with Alabama ranked No. 1 and Florida State ranked No. 3. Earlier this summer the preseason coach’s poll also had those teams at 1 and 3.
As fate would have it, those two teams will meet on Sept. 2 to open the 2017 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
It will be the first college football game ever played in the $1.5 billion home of the Atlanta Falcons. It will also be the “Greatest Opener Of All Time” in college football. That’s not conjecture or hype, brothers and sisters. That is a statement of fact.
“To have the two highest-ranked teams ever in an opener, to have (ESPN’s) College Game Day, to have two brand names like Alabama and Florida State, and to have the first game in an incredible place like the Mercedes-Benz Dome is more than we could have ever wished for,” said Gary Stokan, the CEO of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Kickoff game. “It’s going to be a very special day for Atlanta and for college football.”
Our friends at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff shared some research to back up the “G.O.A.T” label for this game. Specifically:
Since 1950, there have been two opening games matching teams ranked in the top four:
**–No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 UCLA, 1986 in Norman: Oklahoma was the defending national champions and UCLA had won the Rose Bowl at the end of the 1985 season. In fact, UCLA got some first-place votes. Oklahoma dominated the game 38-3. Oklahoma only lost once that season, at No. 2 Miami (28-17) but it cost the Sooners a shot at the national championship. Miami lost to Penn State for the title in the Fiesta Bowl.
**–No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Penn State, 1983: These two teams met in the inaugural Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Penn State was the defending national champions after beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl the previous January. It was one of Tom Osborne’s greatest teams at Nebraska with Mike Rozier at running back and Turner Gill at quarterback. Nebraska dominated 44-6, handing Joe Paterno his worst loss at Penn State. Nebraska would go undefeated and be ranked No. 1 when it lost to Miami 31-30 in the Orange Bowl on a failed two-point conversion attempt.
There has never been a No. 1 vs. No. 3 opener. There will be on Sept. 2 in Atlanta.
We expect the game between Alabama and Florida State will be a bit more competitive than the two mentioned above because both programs are in the middle of an impressive string of success. Here are some nuggets to back that up:
**–These two teams have won five of the last eight national championships. Under Nick Saban Alabama has won titles in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2015. Florida State beat Auburn in the closing seconds to win the 2013 national championship.
**–In the seven seasons since Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach at Florida State in 2010, the Seminoles have won 78 games (11.1 wins per year). The only program that has won more is Alabama and Nick Saban with 86 wins (12.28 wins per year).
**–In those combined 14 seasons only one (Florida State in 2011) had fewer than 10 wins. Saban’s “worst” season in that stretch was 10-3 in 2010.
**–And here’s another wrinkle that can be added to the buildup of this game: If the loser of this game goes on to run the table and win its conference championship, I fully expect them to make the four-team College Football Playoff. The national championship game of the CFP will be right back in Atlanta on Jan. 8. So it is possible they could meet again, this time with the national title on the line.
“Give credit to Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban for playing in this game,” said Stokan. “They understand that the CFP selection committee will reward teams for playing tough non-conference games. In their minds it will be a quality loss.”
So is all that enough to convince you that the Chick-fil-A Kickoff is the G.O.A.T.? I thought so.