Without a doubt the biggest NCAA Round 1 game is Alabama v Michigan. Number 2 v Number 8 (if you believe the ranking system). Reigning BCS National Champions v reigning Sugar Bowl Champions. AJ McCarron v Denard Robinson, arguably two of the hottest QBs heading into the 2012 season.
And yet neither team will have home ground advantage for the September 1 clash.
In a game appropriately named the ‘Cowboy Classic’, the Crimson Tide will face off against the Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX.
As part of Alabama’s recent trend of shifting opening games to neutral venues, this will be the third time the team has not played their first game of the season in Tuscaloosa. In 2008 they ‘hosted’ Clemson in Atlanta then backed it up the following year against Virginia Tech, again in Atlanta.
Many would argue the move from Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium to Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium is all about revenue raising. Alabama’s regular home stadium holds 101,800 fans, compared to Cowboys Stadium’s 110,000. That’s more than 8000 extra fans come Saturday evening. Others would argue moving the game to location within the Central Time Zone allows the 7.00pm kick off to be broadcast during the East Coast primetime slot (which coincidentally could also be all about revenue raising).
However the less pessimistic of football fans will try to convince you that in the end, it’s all about one thing – the game of football itself. Ask any footballer, whether he is a high school junior, a college freshman or even a veteran NFL player, where is the one venue you would like to play at, and more often than not, Cowboys Stadium will be your answer. A stadium full of history, of championship victories and of success.
The opener will be the first appearance for both the Crimson Tide and the Wolverines in Arlington, but while some players are excited about the prospect – Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood reportedly has a picture of the stadium on his phone – others are focusing on the game at hand.
“It’s still 100 yards long and what, 53-something yards wide. There’s no difference. Just a few more seats. A few more fans to yell at you,” Alabama QB AJ McCarron said earlier this week.
‘Bama Coach Nick Saban was more flattering in his opinion of the move to Texas however.
“It really gives the players something to look forward to in the first game and it gives the fans a lot to look forward to in the first game. I think it’s good for college football when we have these kinds of games. We enjoy playing in them.”
Saturday’s game will mark the fourth year of a five-year agreement between the Stadium and ESPN to bring the best of the best NCAA games to Texas over the Labor Day weekend. Last year LSU smashed Oregon 40-27. In 2010, TCU beat Oregon State 30-21, while Brigham Young upset Oklahoma 14-13 in 2009.