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Mississippi State football: Kickoff times announced for Egg Bowl, LSU matchup

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Mississippi State football fans can look forward to at least two night games being played in Davis Wade Stadium this upcoming season.

On Thursday, the SEC announced that Mississippi’s 2017 Egg Bowl game against Ole Miss will take place on Thanksgiving night for the 22nd time in the rivalry’s history. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised by ESPN.

The other game time of note revealed by the conference is Mississippi State’s SEC opener against LSU, which will begin at 6 p.m. CT on Sept. 16. Either ESPN or ESPN2 will televise the game.

The rest of the Bulldogs’ conference schedule will be announced at a later date. Already known is the start time for their Week 2 matchup at Louisiana Tech (6:30 p.m. CT).

The post Mississippi State football: Kickoff times announced for Egg Bowl, LSU matchup appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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South Carolina announces 3 kickoff times; major recruiting weekend ahead

South Carolina recruiting-Joseph Anderson

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Taking the field

The South Carolina Gamecocks announced the kickoff times for their first three football games this season.

The Gamecocks open the 2018 campaign at Williams-Brice Stadium against Coastal Carolina at noon on Saturday, Sept. 1, televised on SEC Network. South Carolina hosts Georgia in Week 2 for the SEC on CBS’ featured game at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 8.

The Gamecocks play under the lights for the first time against Marshall in Week 3, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 15 on ESPNU.

South Carolina is looking for its first 3-0 start since 2012.

Busy weekend

The Gamecocks host a number of 2019 recruits for official visits this weekend, including:

  • 4-star defensive end Joseph Anderson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
  • 4-star defensive end Savion Jackson (Clayton, N.C.)
  • 3-star athlete Jammie Robinson (Cordele, Ga.)
  • 3-star linebacker Derek Boykins (Concord, N.C.)
  • 3-star tackle Anthony Whigan (Lackawanna C.C.)

Two commits, 5-star DE Zacch Pickens and 3-star LB Jahmar Brown, may also be on campus.

The Gamecocks’ 2019 haul, with 12 commits, is currently ranked No. 11 in 247Sports’ 2019 composite team rankings.

‘I like it up there’

Four-star tackle and 2019 prospect Warren McClendon detailed his top schools with Jeff Sentell of DawgNation earlier this week.

“That’s because my cousin [offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon] is there and [offensive line] Coach [Eric] Wolford,” McClendon said when explaining why South Carolina is among his favorites. “We’ve built a relationship since they offered me, and I like it up there, too.”

The Brunswick (Ga.) High School standout is rated as the No. 248 overall prospect for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite.

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High hopes

Class of 2020 quarterback and Palmetto State native Ryan Campbell hopes to impress South Carolina’s coaches at the third annual Muschamp Camp in June.

“I just want them to see that I can play ball,” the Laurens, S.C., native said. “I’m more like a dual threat. I just want them to see that I bring a lot with my game.”

Campbell already has camped at South Carolina, Georgia State and Georgia Tech.

On the mend

The South Carolina baseball team is hoping its top hitter, TJ Hopkins, can play against Ohio State on Friday afternoon in Game 1 of the Greenville, N.C., Regional. The junior is dealing with a lingering back injury.

“Going into the NCAA Regionals that begin Friday, USC (33-24) is deeply hoping that Hopkins will be restored to his spot at the top of the lineup,” writes David Cloninger of The Post and Courier. “What’s encouraging is he’s played some late-inning defense recently and he took batting practice on Thursday.”

Hopkins leads the team in batting average (.345) this season.

We’re here

The Gamecocks arrived in Greenville on Thursday.

This weekend marks South Carolina’s return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out in 2017.

Bobble, bobble

Former South Carolina baseball star and Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield is getting his own bobblehead on Saturday.

Merrifield drove in the game-winning run in the Gamecocks’ 2-1 win over UCLA to clinch the national championship in 2010.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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Alabama football: Kickoff time for Alabama-Louisville announced

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Kickoff time for Alabama football vs. Louisville in the 2018 season opener has been announced.

The Crimson Tide and Cardinals are set to square off at 7 p.m. CT on ABC, the network announced Wednesday.

The two squads will play at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, September 1.

Alabama and Louisville will be meeting for the fourth time in program history with the Crimson Tide holding a 2-1 edge in the series. The last meeting took place in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., after the Crimson Tide swept two games from the Cardinals in the 1976 and 1977 seasons.

Louisville won’t have former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson so it’s unclear how much buzz there will be around this game.

Last season, Alabama opened the year against Florida State in what was billed as the Greatest Opener of All-Time.

Alabama is coming off its fifth national championship in nine seasons.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Praising Will Muschamp’s work at South Carolina; plus, Clemson game kickoff announced

South Carolina football

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

A player’s coach

After leading the Gamecocks to a 28-20 win against his previous team — the Florida Gators — South Carolina coach Will Muschamp shared a moment with his former players.

The second-year South Carolina coach clearly has an affinity for building strong, lasting relationships with his players. In less than two years in Columbia, Muschamp’s already put his fingerprints all over the program.

“We all love Coach Muschamp. You can see that everyone on the Florida team that he coached did, too,” South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley said. “He’s more than a head coach to us. Some people might think the head coach just kind of oversees everything, but he wants to know what’s going on with our life. He wants to know about our family.”

‘Pay the man’

With the work Muschamp’s done on the field, plus the respect and admiration of his players, it’s “time for his salary to follow suit,” according to David Caraviello of SEC Country.

“In a very short time, Muschamp has changed the culture at South Carolina, and the results are evident on the field,” Caraviello wrote. “There’s one way for the university to say thanks: Pay the man before another rebuilding school notices what has happened in Columbia and decides to do it themselves.”

Muschamp’s Gamecocks are 7-3 right now, less than two years removed from a dismal 3-9 record in 2015. He’s 13-10 in his time at South Carolina.

Under the lights

South Carolina’s regular-season finale against Clemson on Nov. 25 will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET under the lights at Williams-Brice Stadium, the SEC announced on Monday.

The Gamecocks are looking to end a three-game skid against the in-state rival Tigers. Last time in Columbia, South Carolina took then No.1-ranked Clemson to the wire, but ultimately fell short, 37-32.

Top 4

Four-star 2019 defensive tackle Travon Walker listed his top 4 schools last week: South Carolina, Alabama, Clemson and Georgia.

“Coach Peterson was telling me that I would fit in perfectly and that they need another one of those guys,” Walker said of South Carolina outside linebacker/defensive end coach Mike Peterson. “He said another one of those guys, talking like — he was referring to D.J. Wonnum. He was saying I’d fit in perfect and I could play the scheme well. And he told me to just keep working.”

The Thomaston, Ga., native was in town on Saturday for his second visit with the Gamecocks. He’s also visited Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia and LSU.

Walker is rated as the No. 5 defensive tackle in the Class of 2019, according to the 247Sports composite.

Hang the banner

Prior to its home opener on Monday night, South Carolina men’s basketball unveiled the banner commemorating its first-ever Final Four appearance last season.

At halftime, fans were treated to a special message from former South Carolina star and current Los Angeles Clippers forward Sindarius Thornwell.

A good start

The celebration didn’t end with the banner’s debut, the Gamecocks topped the Western Michigan Broncos, 78-60, to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Redshirt junior guard Hassani Gravett led South Carolina with 15 points. Florida Atlantic graduate transfer guard Frank Booker added 14 points, while forward Chris Silva posted a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Still on top

Thanks to a career-high 32 points from guard A’ja Wilson, the No. 4-ranked South Carolina women’s basketball team beat No. 15 Maryland, 94-86, on Monday night to move to 2-0 on the season.

Next up for reigning national champion Lady Gamecocks: a trip to the upstate to take on Clemson on Thursday night.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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Alabama football: Recapping LSU week ahead of kickoff

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We know there is always a lot of news flying around Alabama football, so we figured it’d be a good idea to provide you with a spot to catch up on things you might have missed.

No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) hosts No. 19 LSU (6-2, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Here are stories, videos and other news and notes you might have missed this week.

Stone ages of breaking down film

Alabama coach Nick Saban turned 66 on Tuesday, but listening to the coach explain how he used to break down film felt like we were back in the stone ages.

“First of all, I used to have to drive to Pittsburgh and get the film developed. Then I had to drive back. Dom Capers was a GA with me, and Gary Pinkel. So, one man sleeps while the other man drives. So the guy that didn’t go to Pittsburgh had to sit … and wind the film. It was film. It wasn’t video tape. It wasn’t a computer. You spliced all the offensive plays and you put ’em on a reel and you spliced them together. You put all the defensive plays in order on a reel, and spliced them together. If you ever got one upside down and the coaches are watching film, and all of a sudden the play was upside down because you put it on there backwards, you’re talking about a major ass-chewing.”

Check here for the full story. It’s a pretty interesting one.

Injury updates

Saban said Wednesday that running back Josh Jacobs will play Saturday against LSU, while defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand will be a game-time decision.

Both Jacobs (ankle) and Hand (sprained left MCL) have practiced this week.

“Josh Jacobs is fine. He’ll be able to play, no question,” Saban said. “Da’Shawn Hand has practiced, got reps. I don’t think we’ll be able to know whether he’ll be able to play or not until pregame. He’s been medically cleared, but still, any time a player’s coming off an injury, I think that player’s got to have confidence that he can go out there and do his job well.

“I usually talk to the player about that, and we’ll make a decision in pregame on his status for the game.”

Nick Saban speaks

Nick Saban’s news conference on Monday:

Nick Saban’s news conference on Wednesday:

News and analysis

Predictions

Each week, SEC Country writers and editors predict the outcome of Alabama’s next contest.

“Before the College Football Playoff rankings came out this week, I was ready to pick a solid win for the Crimson Tide, maybe by 10-to-14 points. Following the snubbing, though, look for Crimson Tide to come out flying. Alabama is simply a better team on both lines, which will eventually make the difference. Alabama 32, LSU 10.” Chris Walsh

More predictions here.

The post Alabama football: Recapping LSU week ahead of kickoff appeared first on SEC Country.

Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Kickoff time, TV network announced for LSU-Ole Miss game

LSU Leonard Fournette Derrius Guice

A kickoff time and television network were announced for the LSU-Ole Miss game, which is scheduled for next Saturday.

The game will kick at 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Tigers are coming off a thrilling 27-23 win against Auburn on Saturday.

Ole Miss also picked up a win on Saturday, beating Vanderbilt at home. LSU enters with a 5-2 record, and Ole Miss is 3-3. The Tigers won the 2016 meeting in Baton Rouge, thanks to an amazing performance by Leonard Fournette.

Since losing to Troy, the Tigers have won two games in a row, both in the SEC over Florida and Auburn. In their lone road SEC game, the Tigers lost 37-7 to Mississippi State.

The post Kickoff time, TV network announced for LSU-Ole Miss game appeared first on SEC Country.

Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Alabama football: Recapping Texas A&M week ahead of kickoff

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We know there is always a lot of news flying out around Alabama football, so we figured it’d be a good idea to provide you with a spot to catch up on things you might have missed.

No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) travels to College Station, Texas, to face Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0 SEC) on Saturday at Kyle Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here are stories, videos and other news and notes you might have missed this week.

Nick Saban’s dad was a savage

If you’ve ever wondered why Nick Saban is the way he is, this clip explains it.

Nick and Terry Saban enjoy downtime when they can get it

Saban and his wife, Terry, don’t get a lot of time together, so when they do, that time has to be maximized.

There isn’t much time during the season, but when they are together, Saban said he and Terry enjoy watching shows on Netflix. The Sabans also work together on a lot of projects. There’s the Nick’s Kids Foundation, which Terry runs. Terry also steps in and helps Alabama in recruiting when necessary.

It’s the offseason when the coach and his wife are able to unplug a little before recruiting picks up.

“In the offseason, we go to our cottage or up to the lake house or whatever. We really do enjoy doing things together there — whether it’s going out to eat. We have a lot of good friends that we spend a lot time with. We take walks, we go for boat rides. Ray-Ray likes to go for boat rides. Everybody kind of just lays back and enjoys themselves. We really have a lot of fun being together. I think we kind of learned through the years that that together kind of changes with the calendar based on what else is happening.”

LOL

Come for the outside linebacker drills, stay for the student managers hilariously failing to put the “football” on top of the dummies.

Injury updates

Saban ruled Da’Shawn Hand (MCL) and Trevon Diggs (foot) out against Texas A&M.

Hand, a starting defensive lineman, will likely be sidelined for a couple more weeks as he works himself back from his knee injury.

With Hand out, players such as Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams, Jamar King and others should see more opportunities.

Diggs, a reserve cornerback and starting return man, could return to the field as early as next week, but we’ll know more on Monday. Diggs was spotted wearing a walking boot at the facility this week.

Freshman receiver Henry Ruggs has replaced Diggs on returns.

Nick Saban speaks

Nick Saban’s news conference on Monday:

Nick Saban’s news conference on Wednesday:

Player interviews

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts:

Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton:

Alabama tight end Hale Hentges:

Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings:

Alabama cornerback Levi Wallace:

Alabama running back Josh Jacobs:

Alabama linebacker Keith Holcombe:

Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams:

News and analysis

Predictions

Each week, SEC Country writers and editors predict the outcome of Alabama’s next contest.

“The only thing I know about predictions is that I don’t know anything. I predicted Alabama-Vanderbilt would be kind of close. That game ended in a 59-0 blowout by Alabama. I expected Ole Miss to put up a fight, calling that one 34-17 in favor of Alabama. Ole Miss managed just a field goal as Alabama pounded the Rebels into submission, 66-3. Alabama will definitely win this game. That’s the only thing I [think I] know for sure. Alabama 41, Ole Miss 10.” — Marq Burnett

More predictions here.

Podcasts

Our podcast host, Ryan Fowler, does a great job of bringing on guests with knowledge of Alabama and college football.

The post Alabama football: Recapping Texas A&M week ahead of kickoff appeared first on SEC Country.

Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Alabama football: Recapping Colorado State week ahead of kickoff

Alabama football-Nick Saban-Colorado State-Jalen Hurts-Da'Ron Payne-Josh Jacobs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We know there is always a lot of news flying out around Alabama football, so we figured it’d be a good idea to provide you with a spot to catch up on things you may have missed.

No. 1 Alabama hosts Colorado State on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Here are stories, videos and other news and notes you may have missed throughout the week.

That’s my quarterback

If you come for Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, be prepared for Nick Saban to respond.

Hurts hasn’t put up big passing numbers, but he also hasn’t turned over the ball and is an efficient passer. Whether it’s fans or the media, Hurts has been one of the more scrutinized players in college football during his short career in Tuscaloosa despite being 15-1 as a starter (Hurts didn’t start Alabama’s opener last season or his record would be 16-1).

Asked if the weekly analysis of Hurts’ passing numbers is overblown, Saban took a shot at the media for their role in the criticism of Hurts.

“Well, I think a lot of things you [reporters] do are overblown, but I realize why you do it. It’s your job to create news. It’s our job to try to help our guys play winning football. I think different players play winning football different ways. If you want to be critical of a guy for rushing for 154 yards and think he should not do that so he can pass more, then that’s up to you. You can do that if you want.”

Saban’s defense of Hurts was strong, and Hurts appreciated his coach having his back.

LOL

It felt like a mundane question considering how Alabama handled its quarterbacks against Fresno State.

Last Saturday, Saban said the plan was always to give backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa some snaps with the first-team offense. Tagovailoa briefly replaced Hurts in the first half against Fresno State.

Asked how he plans to handle playing both quarterbacks Saturday, Saban didn’t want to reveal his strategy.

“We haven’t decided how we’re going to play the guys and I wouldn’t tell you if I did. I don’t mind you asking the question but I don’t need to answer it. But I will call Colorado State and tell them exactly what I want to do as soon as we get out of here. I know Mike Bobo, his dad lives up by my house in Lake Burton. So I’ll call them up and tell them who we’re playing, when, how long, when we’re putting them in, we’ll tell them the whole thing. Is that all right, is that alright with you?”

Saban likes this team

Team chemistry is something that must be built over the course of the season, but Saban likes where the 2017 team is heading in that department.

“I think we have a lot of players on our team that I truly, truly think have very good attitudes. They’re working hard, trying to get it right, trying to do better. I sort of like this team, but I also think that some of the circumstances that the season has created so far has created some opportunities for some guys. But it’s also created some circumstances that don’t allow us to do exactly what we want to do until we get some players back. We’re going to continue to work to improve the players and create roles for the guys that we have. But at the same time, we’ve got to not ask players to do things they’re not ready to do.”

Injury news

The big news was running back Josh Jacobs (hamstring) being able to practice all week. Jacobs showed no signs of being limited during the media viewing periods of practice. He was able to cut and looked explosive when running. We’re not sure he’ll play, but seeing Jacobs in practice was a positive sign.

Saban said right guard Lester Cotton practiced this week, and the team expects him to play. Linebackers Rashaan Evans (groin) and Anfernee Jennings (ankle) were at practice, but both worked in black, non-contact jerseys.

Nick Saban speaks

Nick Saban’s Monday news conference

Nick Saban’s Wednesday news conference

Player interviews

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts

Alabama defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne

News and analysis

Predictions

Each week, SEC Country writers covering Alabama predict the outcome of the Crimson Tide’s next contest.

“A night game in Bryant-Denny Stadium should be a good time. Other than that, don’t expect much competition in this one. Look for Alabama to get young players in by the second half. This is the last opportunity Alabama will have to play young guys as SEC play cranks up next week with a trip to Vanderbilt.” — Marq Burnett

More predictions here.

Podcasts

Our podcast host Ryan Fowler does a great job of bringing on guests with knowledge of Alabama and college football.

The post Alabama football: Recapping Colorado State week ahead of kickoff appeared first on SEC Country.

Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Clemson releases official update regarding kickoff time for Auburn game

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There have been a number of games affected by Hurricane Irma but as of now, the highly anticipated Auburn-Clemson game does not appear to be one of them.

After releasing a statement on Thursday, Clemson followed up with another one on Friday, announcing that there will be no changes to the kickoff time coming today and that it does not expect to make any tomorrow. The game is still scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

The game is one of the most anticipated in a loaded week 2 slate. Auburn comes in ranked No. 13 while Clemson is ranked No. 3.

The game will air on ESPN. Clemson came away victorious in last year’s contest, winning 19-13 at Auburn.

The post Clemson releases official update regarding kickoff time for Auburn game appeared first on SEC Country.

Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Countdown to kickoff: Oh Atlanta, Alabama and college football hear you calling

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University of Alabama sophomore tight end Miller Forristall is going home this weekend, and in the best way possible.

He’s from Cartersville, Ga., one of a long line of Peach State products who have played for the Crimson Tide. He grew up watching the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome, but on Saturday will be participating in the first college football game played at new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said about being part of history.

It’s something the Crimson Tide have grown accustomed to, like making themselves at home in Atlanta.

Since Nick Saban arrived in 2007, Alabama has played 11 times there over 10 years, and has only lost once — the 2008 SEC Championship Game, which it avenged the subsequent season. Coach Nick Saban also won three times there coaching LSU, making him 13-1.

He’s won five SEC titles in Atlanta, gone 4-0 in Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games and last year won the Peach Bowl semifinal against Washington. All within driving distance of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Ironically, it’s also where Alabama was not known for playing prior to Saban. While the Peach Bowl is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it never landed the Crimson Tide as a participant until last season’s semifinal.

But with the SEC Championship Game moving from Legion Field in 1994, Alabama started to become more of a fixture, followed by the kickoff games, which are like having an extra bowl at the beginning of the season. Nine of the 12 kickoff games have sold out, including all featuring the Crimson Tide.

 YEAR RESULT
 2008 (24) Alabama 34, (9) Clemson 10
 2009  (5) Alabama 34, (7) Virginia Tech 24
 2010  (16) LSU 30, (18) North Carolina 24
 2011 (5) Boise State 35, (19) Georgia 21
 2012 Tennessee 35, (25) N.C. State 21
(14) Clemson 26, (24) Auburn 19
 2013 (1) Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10
 2014 (18) Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13
(2) Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
 2015 (6) Auburn 31, (25) Louisville 24
 2016 (18) Georgia 33, (22) North Carolina 24

Saturday’s showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State is the biggest yet (8 p.m. ET, ABC), and being billed as the greatest season opener in college football history.

“We love Alabama,” said Peach Bowl President/CEO Gary Stokan.

And Alabama loves Atlanta, as this game will mean a lot to everyone involved.

The players

The score was already 33-9, and Florida was desperately trying to stay in the game. With 1 minute, 24 seconds until halftime, it was facing second-and-9 at its 49, when Crimson Tide middle linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton took his final snap of the season.

The call was a short pass under the coverage to the left, with tight end DeAndre Goolsby letting pass rusher Tim Williams get by him to be picked up by a teammate and making the catch in space. Trying to prevent a first down, Hamilton closed and planted his leg, but when the receiver cut back inside his right knee gave way.

Hamilton immediately went down in a heap, grabbing at the knee that would require surgery.

“The way he got the injury was kind of bizarre,” said Rashaan Evans, who replaced Hamilton and will now play alongside him. “Like I’ve never seen anybody tear their ACL like that.”

A couple of plays later Goolsby scored a touchdown to cap a 92-yard drive, but Florida was shut out in the second half of the 54-16 loss.

Although it won’t be in the same stadium, as the SEC Championship Game was held in the Georgia Dome, it’s fitting that Hamilton’s career will resume in the same city.

“He’s been waiting a long time,” linebacker Anfernee Jennings said. “He missed the national championship and he missed the spring game. He’s very ready to go hit somebody.”

Although Alabama will have numerous players making their first starts, 10-plus freshmen making their Crimson Tide debuts, and a team eager to get back on the field for the first time since the national championship loss, Hamilton might the most anxious of them all.

When the injury occurred, Hamilton was third in team tackles with 64, including 9 for a loss and 2 sacks. He had 2 interceptions, including 1 earlier in the game against Florida.

SEC Championship Game-Alabama football-Florida-2016-shaun dion hamilton
Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton is helped after suffering a knee injury in the SEC Championship Game (Getty Images).

On a team that feels it has something to prove, he does on a whole different level.

“I actually came back more explosive according to the stats from that little GPS thing I wore,” Hamilton said about the Crimson Tide’s Catapult tracking system that monitors players on the field and during practices.

“I feel good, better than ever. I’m just excited to get back on the field in an actual game. I’m ready to go.”

The team/school

The payout for Saturday’s game is $ 5 million. Not total, but for each team, which is compounded by their not having to spend to fill out the schedule.

This season, Alabama will pay its three non-conference opponents $ 3.5 million to make the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium, and it would be more if one wasn’t a BCS team the Saturday before facing Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

According to information acquired from an open records request made by SEC Country, Alabama has averaged $ 2.5 million in payouts since 2014. It’s partly due to the rising going rate, and there not being too many programs eager to make the trip.

YEAR TEAMS (PAYOUTS)
2014 Florida Atlantic ($ 1 million), Southern Miss ($ 1.4 million), and Western Carolina ($ 480,000)
2015 Middle Tennessee ($ 1.5 million), La.-Monroe ($ 1.6 million), and Charleston Southern ($ 500,000)
2016 Western Kentucky ($ 1.3 million), Kent State ($ 1.5 million), and UT Chattanooga ($ 500,000)
2017 Fresno State ($ 1.4 million), Colorado State ($ 1.5 million), and Mercer ($ 600,000)

So, the money’s nice, but it’s not the biggest reason why Saban likes playing so often in Atlanta. There’s the competition, the prestige, the exposure and even the new stadium. But those things factor into something else — recruiting.

“You always want to play on the big stage as you’re being recruited,” Forristall said. “Knowing Alabama plays on the big stage and in those big games, you want to go play against the best. That may have been something that swayed my decision.”

Another venue Alabama likes to frequent is AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which also has an annual kickoff game. Have you noticed how many players the Crimson Tide have from the Lone Star State? There are 10 scholarship players on this year’s team from Texas, including starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, plus walk-ons.

Saban’s first experience with Atlanta as a coach dates back to his initial season at LSU in 2000, when the Tigers struggled through the first half of the season and even lost to UAB, 13-10. They bounced back to 7-4, with the coach lobbying for what he thought was the best possible bowl invitation.

“My committee didn’t want LSU,” Stokan said.

That’s because in 1996 LSU  played Clemson in the Peach Bowl. While Clemson sold out its ticket allotment, LSU didn’t seem too interested. Saban promised to rally the fans and promote the game. He came through. Within a day of the pairings being announced, LSU sold a record 16,421 tickets. It also beat No. 15 Georgia Tech, 28-14

“I stuck my neck out for Nick and he’s a loyal guy,” Stokan said.

Fast-forward to 2008 and the first Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and Alabama was at the top of the wish list of potential teams, plus Saban sort of owed him. The Crimson Tide handled No. 9 Clemson and sparked the dynasty run that’s still ongoing.

“He said, ‘Yeah, we have to win Alabama recruiting and we have to finish second in Georgia, and if we do we’ll play for a national championship,’” Stokan said.

The city

There wasn’t a specific plan, per se, but an idea that grew over time, the roots of which included a conversation between former Alabama athletic director Mal Moore and Stokan.

It was 2002 and they were at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., for the annual enshrinement ceremony. While walking through its halls, Moore turned to him and said, “Gary, there’s nothing of Bear Bryant.”

The Hall had been in Notre Dame’s back yard since 1995, but it wasn’t drawing many fans or corporate sponsorships. Attendance had gone from approximately 115,000 to 65,000 and its future looked as stagnant as an Indiana winter.

Stokan made up his mind: “This belongs in Atlanta.”

He started working on a relocation proposal but the city was already behind a move to create a NASCAR Hall of Fame. It stayed on the back-burner until NASCAR opted for Charlotte, N.C., and then began the push. It took four years to become reality in 2009.

“We’re just blessed,” he said. “We’re in a great city. I call it the college football epicenter, mecca and capital because the passionate fans from all of the ACC and SEC schools live in metro Atlanta. I think we have the No. 1 or No. 2 alumni base of all those schools living in metro Atlanta, plus it’s an easy drive.”

Meanwhile, other major pieces fell into place. The SEC Championship Game became so successful it was copied by other leagues. While the Peach Bowl hoped to be a bigger player in the BCS, it went the opposite direction when the NCAA approved a 12-game regular season by creating a big event at the front end of the schedule.

Finally, with the creation of the College Football Playoff followed by the NFL’s Falcons building their impressive $ 1.5 billion home, Atlanta’s transformation was complete. Not only will Mercedes-Benz Stadium serve as the site for the biggest season opener in college football history Saturday, but host the National Championship Game for the first time.

Alabama football-Crimson Tide football-Mercedes Benz Stadium-Atlanta
Mercedes-Benz Stadium in August 2016 vs. June 2017 (Shehan Jeyarajah/SEC Country)

“We wanted the tenants that were going to come in here and play to feel like this was their home field, this was their stadium, and that’s how we designed it,” Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay said.

“We truly tried to design it with the SEC in mind. We tried to design it with the College Football Championship in mind. We tried to design it with all of the major events in mind.”

Alabama could benefit the most this season, with two more potential visits if it can win its fourth straight SEC West title, and advance in the playoff for the third straight year. It would be fitting considering how it and Atlanta have benefitted so much from one another of late.

While Alabama has been the kings of college football, with four national championships under Saban, Atlanta has developed into not just the epicenter, mecca, or capital of the sport, but the home of college football.

“It’s been a great run, a great journey,” Stokan said. “It’s pretty cool.”

The post Countdown to kickoff: Oh Atlanta, Alabama and college football hear you calling appeared first on SEC Country.

Christopher Walsh – SEC Country