ATLANTA – Reigning national champion Alabama and West Virginia will meet for the first time ever to open the 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, Chick-fil-A Bowl officials announced today.
The game is scheduled to be played Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014.
The BCS-style season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game's tradition for matching top-ranked teams in the season's opening weekend is likely to continue. Both teams have a long history of producing nationally ranked programs with the Crimson Tide finishing last season as national champions and the Mountaineers finishing ranked No. 17 in the AP poll.
Both teams are projected to be ranked in the top 10 to start the 2012 season.
"Alabama and West Virginia are consistently among the premier teams in the country and we're thrilled to be able to host such a high profile game with representatives from the SEC and the Big 12," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "This will be an epic blockbuster-type game the nation will anticipate for a long, long time and will continue our tradition of showcasing two top-ranked teams to open the season on Saturday night."
Tickets to the game will be evenly split between the two teams, creating a true neutral-site game. All tickets to the game will be sold through the university ticket offices. No tickets will be sold through the Chick-fil-A Bowl office.
"The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is an outstanding event and we look forward to opening the 2014 season in Atlanta," said Nick Saban, Alabama head coach. "Gary Stokan and his staff do a great job in hosting this game and the atmosphere in the Georgia Dome has been like a BCS bowl game in our previous experiences there. The exposure for our football players and our program is tremendous and it is a great experience for our fans. This will be the sixth time we have played a non-conference game at a neutral site, and the fourth time at Atlanta."
"I believe that playing an opponent that has the national reputation that West Virginia does, one of the top programs in the country, provides a great challenge for our players and gives us something to look forward to in the offseason," Saban said. "We are privileged at the University of Alabama to be a part of what has become a great tradition in college football with first-class organizations like the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the City of Atlanta."
"We are always happy to have an opportunity to play in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game," UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore said. "Playing against West Virginia, such a quality opponent, will be a great way to start the 2014 season. Our team and our fans always enjoy the chance to play in the Georgia Dome."
Alabama is 10-8-1 all time against teams from the Big 12 with their most recent match-up ending in a victory over Texas in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game.
West Virginia is 24-22-2 all time against teams from the SEC and defeated Georgia to win the 2006 Sugar Bowl the year it was played in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, site of the game with Alabama.
"Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is a great opportunity for our football program and will be an exciting event for our fans," said Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia head coach. "Alabama is one of the top teams in college football history, and it will be a tough challenge for us."
"Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is yet another great way to showcase our football program on a national stage," Director of Athletics Oliver Luck said. "Playing Alabama will match-up two programs with great college football traditions. I have known Nick Saban since my playing days at West Virginia, and I have the utmost respect for him and his program."
In the first four Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, Alabama has donned the game's Old Leather Helmet Trophy after two of those games. Alabama is also set to re-match Virginia Tech in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.