Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game featuring Virginia Tech and Alabama will be at 8 p.m. Sept. 5 in the Georgia Dome, and will be nationally televised by ABC.
Considering the high expectations surrounding the Hokies this season, this game is, in a word, huge.
Both teams are projected to be ranked among the top 10 in the preseason rankings, and both are strong defensive teams with hopes of contending for the national title. Virginia Tech played it's best football of 2008 in the final two games of the season, and Alabama will have a new quarterback and three new starters on the offensive line. The Crimson Tide will be looking for a new start after losing to Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
"When you can match two top-10 teams in the first week, it really does start to look like a BCS-style game to open the season," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "We think the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is the biggest game out there and we're proud of our partnership with ESPN and that ABC will be broadcasting the game in its prime time slot."
The one thing the Hokies -- and the ACC -- can't afford is another devastating and embarrassing performance like the one Clemson had in this game last year, which resulted in a 34-10 loss to Alabama. Last year's result, though, is proof of how this game can send programs into a tailspin in one direction or another.
It was a huge confidence boost to Alabama, which went on to a No. 1 ranking, and it was a reality check for Clemson, as the Tigers' season somehow found a way to get even worse.
Odds are that won't happen again. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wants to play Alabama. He wants his players to get this experience. And he'll have them ready for this game.