Sports Outside the Beltway

Alabama-Clemson 2008 Georgia Dome Game

Talks are heating up for a matchup between Alabama and Clemson to kick off the 2008 season.

If a few things fall into place this week, Alabama and Clemson could open the 2008 season at the Georgia Dome.

Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, confirmed that discussions are taking place with the two schools to play on Aug. 30, 2008 in Atlanta. “With all of the Georgia kids that these two teams have, its obvious that both want to recruit heavily over here,” Stokan told the Journal-Constitution. “It would be a great way to kick off the 2008 season.”
Alabama has 11 Georgia players on its 2007 roster.

New Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has indicated he would be interested in the move. The Tide already have seven home games scheduled for next season and still needs to add another non-conference game. Western Kentucky is currently in that Aug. 30 slot, but could be moved to either Sept. 13 or Nov. 22 if this deal comes together. Alabama’s other non-conference games in 2008 are with Tulane (Sept. 6) and Northern Illinois (Nov. 1).

Clemson currently has seven home games and four non-conference games scheduled, but one of those is with The Citadel, a Division I-AA team, on a date that has yet to be determined. Clemson’s other non-conference games are with Louisiana Tech (in Shreveport, La), Central Florida and South Carolina.

Like Alabama, Clemson recruits heavily in Georgia, with 12 Peach State players on its current roster. Tigers athletics director Terry Don Phillips is scheduled to meet with head coach Tommy Bowden this week to discuss this possibility.

The Atlanta Sports Council is trying to set up college football games in the Dome for 2008, 2009 and 2010. Stokan has been negotiating with Florida State in hope of bringing the Seminoles to Atlanta but those talks have bogged down because of the inability to find a high-profile opponent. There were also talks with West Virginia about the possibility of playing Florida State, Stokan said.

Duke is strongly considering moving its 2010 home game with Alabama to the Georgia Dome.

Two friends with Clemson ties have forwarded this story to me and they’re more excited than I am.

At Alabama, the expectation remains the same as it was under Bear Bryant: Winning the national championship. That’s true even though the program has been mostly mediocre since winning its last national championship after the 1992 season. Since there’s no playoff system, the way to accomplish that is to go undefeated throughout a brutal SEC season, including a championship game, and hope to get enough votes to be in the top two in the BCS at the end of the year and then win one last game. Adding another tough game to the schedule does nothing to accomplish that, except maybe giving the winner a few bonus points with the voters.

For Clemson, a winning season capped off with a victory over Carolina is a good year. Winning the ACC is enough to keep the fans happy for a decade or two. They last accomplished that feat the year before Alabama’s last national crown. Indeed, Tiger fans are still riding high from their last national title in 1981, well before any of their current players were born.

The bottom line for Alabama is that losing a neutral site game with Clemson to start the season would effectively end it for ‘Bama fans. For Clemson, a loss would hurt but not have any impact on its goals.

As to recruiting Georgia players, all Alabama needs to do is get back to winning games. If they’re contending for a championship on a regular basis, most of their games will be on national television.

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