When it comes to Alabama-Miami, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan has the same throwback as most die-hard college football fans.
The Chick-fil-A kickoff game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 14 Miami on Saturday is the schools’ first meeting since Game No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, which the Crimson Tide won 34-13. For two schools that have combined for a dozen national championships over the past 40 years, that game still resonates.
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“It’s the game everyone remembers,” Stokan told Sporting News. “Having said that, quite frankly, it’s great for media and game notes. These kids weren’t even born then. What they’re trying to do is create their own legacy. ”
For Miami, this is a unique opportunity to use the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game as a springboard like Alabama has done in the past.
“Miami wants to create a legacy, and this is the start,” Stokan said. “If they can come in and upset Alabama, and gain the confidence to win their division, face Clemson probably in the ACC Championship game, they will have achieved one of their goals.
“That’s what Miami wants to do,” he said. “They want to get on the big stage like they were in the 80s and 90s.”
The Crimson Tide performed in Chick-fil-A’s first kickoff game in 2008; a 34-10 win over No. 9 Clemson that brought the program back into the national spotlight in Nick Saban’s second season. “Nick will tell you this is the start of the Alabama dynasty,” Stokan said.
“Nick is 15-1 at the Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Stokan said. “He loves Atlanta. He’s won a national championship here, SEC championships, Chick-fil-A kickoff games and CFP semifinal games. He’s run the gamut of important games you can play let alone win in the same stadium.”
Alabama has its non-conference schedule set for the foreseeable future, which means it won’t play in Chick-fil-A’s kickoff game until at least 2032. Does that create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Hurricanes to use this step in the same way? ?
It’s a tough task to play in Alabama, which is 10-0 in neutral-site openers under Saban, including a 6-0 record against ACC schools. This is the Hurricanes’ first Chick-Fil-A kickoff game, and the last visit to the Peach Bowl was a 40-3 loss to LSU in 2005. Why would Miami want this step?
“I give a lot of credit to (Miami athletic director) Blake James, who, talking to him, really wanted the opportunity to play in this game,” Stokan said. “They’ve sold all those tickets and they have a quarterback who is one of the Heisman’s top favorites in pre-season. With the transfers they have coming up, I think they’re also loaded on defense. ”
Miami quarterback D’Eriq King, who recovered from a torn ACL, became one of NIL’s biggest beneficiaries. Alabama has a new supporting cast around redshirt quarterback Bryce Young, who also picked up the NIL endorsement money. If the Hurricanes were to upset, then this would be the biggest Week 1 storyline in decades.
Reality check: Alabama is an 18.5-point favorite and has a history of blasting teams in these neutral-site openings. Miami faces a challenge to make it a four quarter game.
“If one team is having a great season and the other team is having a great season, there is now in the nomenclature of the CFP selection committee such a thing as a good loss,” Stokan said. “If Miami were to lose this game, go ahead and have a great season in the ACC, face Clemson in the ACC championship, even if they lose there, they have a case to be in the top four if Clemson and Alabama are playoff teams.”
If the 1993 Sugar Bowl taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Miami was No. 1 and an 8-point favorite in this classic, but Alabama dominated the game. “The Strip,” where Crimson Tide safety George Teague snatched the ball from Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas on what would have been an 89-yard TD, will be replayed a few times on Saturday.
Can the next generation of Miami players turn that script around on the big stage? Stokan is the one who is thrilled to find out.
“They’re a big brand in college football, but having the game against No. 1 Alabama in the nation brings back the days of the ’80s and ’90s when Alabama and Miami were the teams controlling college football.” , Stokan said. . “It’s a great way to start college football’s comeback season.”