Alabama Football’s Fantastic Relationship With Neutral Site Openers
The Alabama Crimson Tide takes on the Miami Hurricanes this Saturday in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As we look forward to the final neutral-site season opener (at least for a few years) after over a decade of them, it's a good time to recap the last ten season-opening games Alabama football has played in Atlanta, Orlando, and Arlington. After this season, Alabama has home and home non-conference series scheduled for their opening games up until 2035.
The Crimson Tide has played in 10 neutral-site, non-conference games on the first week of their season since 2008, with only three games in that span played at theirs or their opponent's home stadium. Alabama is 10-0 in opener games played on neutral ground. They played six of those openers in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Tide is 6-0 in those games, outscoring their opponents 202-77.
To aid in previewing this week's game against the Hurricanes, here's a recap of how the Alabama Crimson Tide has performed in each of those six opening games in Atlanta:
August 30, 2008
Alabama 34, Clemson 10
For Alabama's first in a series of neutral site games, they were ranked 24 coming into the Georgia Dome against the No. 9 Clemson Tigers. Though they were the underdogs in this matchup, Alabama came out dominating. Star Alabama alumni like Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Javier Arenas, Leigh Tiffin, and Dont'a Hightower helped the Tide come out on top in the two teams' first meeting since 1975. This was also Alabama's 12th straight win against the Tigers.
September 5, 2009
Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24
The No. 5 Crimson Tide started their season against the No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies after a tough loss to Florida in the SEC championship kept them out of the BCS National Championship game the previous year. They trailed 17-16 at halftime before coming back to secure the win in the 4th quarter. This game also marked the beginning of Mark Ingram's 2009 Heisman trophy campaign as he had 150 yards on 26 carries and 2 touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Kicker Leigh Tiffin had a career-high 4 field goals in 5 attempts.
August 31, 2013
Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10
The No. 1 ranked, back-to-back national champion Alabama team took on the unranked Virginia Tech Hokies again as the season began in 2013. The biggest story of this game was Christion Jones's two kick returns for 109 yards and one touchdown. According to the Associated Press's recap of this game, Nick Saban famously followed up this win by explaining that he was underwhelmed by the Tide's performance and that they need to work harder, as Michael Jordan did during his two three-peats, if they're in search of that third consecutive championship trophy.
August 30, 2014
Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
The unranked West Virginia Mountaineers took on a No. 2 Alabama that had a quarterback battle preseason between Blake Sims and Jake Coker. It appeared though, in this week one game, that fifth-year senior Sims won the job. The Tide secured the win with the help of running backs Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon, and wide receiver Amari Cooper. Sims threw for 250 yards and ran for 42, but had no touchdowns in this game.
September 2, 2017
Alabama 24, Florida State 7
No. 1 Alabama had its fair share of offensive struggles in this game vs. the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles. The special teams and defense carried this game for the Tide. Damien Harris stole the show as he had one rushing TD and a blocked punt led to another touchdown drive. Kicker Andy Pappanastos had three field goals which gave Alabama a more cushioned lead. As for the amazing defense that day, cornerback Levi Wallace and linebacker Mack Wilson each had an interception, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked a field goal to preserve the lead at the end of the first half.
August 31, 2019
Alabama 42, Duke 3
The No. 2 Crimson Tide led by Tua Tagovailoa was expected to roll over the Duke Blue Devils in this opener game and they did. Tagovailoa threw for a phenomenal 336 yards and four touchdowns, with Jerry Jeudy catching 10 of his 26 passes and receiving one touchdown.
Overall, Alabama football seems to perform well when playing neutral site games in Atlanta. They have a combined record of 15-1 between the Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium under Nick Saban. This may be the last scheduled opener in Atlanta, but it shouldn't be the last chance for Alabama to rack up more wins at Mercedes-Benz. The SEC Championship and Peach Bowl will be held there through 2026, so here's hoping we see a lot more Alabama football in the ATL.