ATLANTA — It is so loud inside the Georgia Dome you can't hear the Public Address system.
As it was last year with the Alabama-Clemson game, the crowd of about 75,000 fans is split down the middle. It's looks like a pretty even split. A lot of Virginia Tech folks came down from Virginia as well as the short drive over from Alabama.
Even though the crowd looks even, the Bama folks may be a bit louder.
Kickoff is less than 10 minutes away. The pregame stuff is done and both teams are preparing to come onto the artificial turf.
Football Saturday kicks off the party
There is something about college football that will make normal people do abnormal things.
Saturday morning, the Browns — Kin, Beth and their daughter Abby — drove from Harris County to Atlanta. These big Alabama fans did not have tickets to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic between Alabama and Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome.
But they wanted to taste college football before driving home and watching the game on television.
Where better to get a taste of it than The Varsity, the cult eatery on the edge of Georgia Tech’s campus.
“We just wanted to marinate in it,” Beth said.
They were far from alone. A lot of folks were in the marinade of football, fall-like weather, food and drink.
The long football winter thawed Labor Day weekend. And thousands of college football fans made their way to Atlanta. Many were wearing the crimson of Alabama and the burnt orange and maroon of Virginia Tech. But there were also plenty of Georgia Tech fans on hand to see the Yellow Jackets open the season with a rout of outmanned Jacksonville State 37-17.
The Varsity and MARTA, Atlanta’s mass transit system, were football melting pots.
Just ask Georgia Tech fan Drew Hayes of Douglasville as he waited to change trains at Five Points on his way to Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“My first train was packed with Alabama fans,” he said. “Everybody was wearing red, and I was just this one little blue hat in the middle.”
Hayes wore a T-shirt declaring that Tech football was: “The best time you will have with 55,000 of your closest friends.”
If Hayes was in an intimate setting at Grant Field, the feeling around the Georgia Dome was totally different.
It was big-time college football with all the trimmings.
The ESPN Gameday crew was there. Which meant college football fans came from near and far to watch a live pregame show Saturday morning.
Lee Corso, an ESPN analyst, played to the crowd, picking Bama to win.
But there were folks in the mass who didn’t have a dog in the fight. One of those was 15-month-old Pat Murphy, who was in a stroller being pushed by his father.
“My first college Gameday,” a sign over his head read.
The little man from Atlanta proudly wore his Georgia Bulldog shirt.
But they came from afar, too.
Weston Gallop is from Tampa, Fla. He was standing about 50 yards from the Gameday set, but he was clearly ready for some football even though he looked a little lost in his Florida Gators hat.
“I am just ready to enjoy the football season,” Gallop said.
His companion Julie Hoskins, also a Florida graduate, agreed.
“I love the start of the season and the tradition of it,” she said. “It feels like your football team is your family.”
Just ask Alabama fan Rudy Strum of Pelham, Ala., and Ashley Woodard of Tuscaloosa. They were setting up their tailgate party just outside the Dome — 10 hours before the 8 p.m. kickoff.
“I guess you could say we are ate up with it,” Strum said.
Not as bad as Gail and Elton Griffin of Gardendale, Ala. They were walking outside the Dome in matching T-shirts. “We interrupt this marriage for football season,” the shirts read.
And the retired couple have been doing it for 46 seasons now.
“Roll, Tide, Roll,” Gail shouted.
But the happiest man in the crowd was Jerry Harrison of Stevenson, Ala. He was wearing a “Big Al” elephant hat on his head and his cup smelled of something stronger than Coca-Cola even though it was 10:30 a.m.
“Do you want to guess who I am pulling for?” he asked.
Then he tipped his cup and said, “It’s time for Big Al to have a drink.”
At the Dome
Time for the main event.
Just got into the Georgia Dome more than two hours before the Alabama-Virginia Tech kickoff.
It is a zoo outside the building. Looks like both schools have traveled well for the season-opening Chick-fil-A Classic. And the scalpers are having a good day.
Tickets I priced outside the stadium ranged from $150 to $250, which is a premium for the scalpers. All the roads and MARTA leading into the stadium are packed, as well. MARTA trains southbound were standing room only.
And they were loud.
Will update at least once more prior to kickoff.
Headed for the Dome
The Georgia Tech game is done. The Jackets won 37-17.
The Yellow Jackets can enjoy this one for a few hours, then it is time to turn the attention to Clemson on Thursday night.
For me? Off to MARTA and down to the Georgia Dome for Alabama-Virginia Tech.
Will check back in when I get to the Dome and get things set up. One game down, one to go.
Life is good.
Just some random thoughts while sitting in the Grant Field pressbox.
What a beautiful day for football. It's 79 degrees and overcast in Atlanta. Some light rain, but nothing more than the football gods spitting a little. Every Saturday this fall should be like this.
Football has been played at this site for 104 years now. Atlanta has grown up around Bobby Dodd Stadium, but it remains a near perfect venue. And, The Varsity is only three blocks away. So, that makes it a perfect venue.
With all due respect to the TV folks, college football was made to be played on Saturday afternoons -- on college campuses. Just one man's opinion.
The Georgia Tech band sounded great. But that's a dad speaking, not a journalist.
I remember 30 years ago Troy State and Jax State were at the same place when it came to football. Today, Troy is a Division I program that will play anyone, anywhere, any time. Jax State is still in the college football minor leagues. How did that happen?
Looks like the Tech subs are going to get a lot of second-half playing time with a 31-7 lead.
There are 46,131 folks at Grant Field. There will be more than 75,000 in the Dome tonight for Alabama-Virginia Tech. But give the Jackets a break, there real season starts Thursday night against Clemson.
I don't know how you defend Tech's offense.
Georgia Tech strong in first half
Georgia Tech is up 31-7 at the half over an out-classed Jacksonville State team.
And it could have been worse. Should have been worse.
The Jackets scored five touchdowns, and not for two lost fumbles, could have had more.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer has a couple of scores and 91 first half yards on just six carries.
They better rest him up for Clemson on Thursday. He's ready for ACC play.
The only bright spot for Jacksonville State came from a local kid. Brooks Robinson -- not the baseball Hall of Famer -- came in at quarterback for Jax State. The Opelika product then scored the only Gamecock touchdown on a quarterback throw-back pass. It was good for 20 yards and the score.
I admit it: I am here for the band
Georgia Tech has this one in hand, and we have only played a quarter.
Tech 17, Jacksonville State 0.
The Gamecocks are simply no match for Tech. This is shaping up nicely as Tech's scrimmage for Thursday night's nationally televised Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with Clemson here.
Now, time to get ready for the main reason I am at the Tech game and didn't wait until late in the afternoon to come up for the Alabama-Virginia Tech game.
I admit, I am here for the band. My daughter Carmen is a freshman in the Tech band. In 26 years of covering ballgames, I must admit this is the first time I am more interested in the band than the game.
Carmen was sick late in the week and spent a few days home in Columbus. She rode up with me this morning, which was nicer than the normal drive to a college game in an empty car.
She's better today than she was Thursday. But there is at least one clarinet player playing hurt. And the band is playing a lot as the Jackets rack up the points.
Let's play two
Welcome to Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field.
Yep, that's right Georgia Tech. Yellow Jacket heaven.
It's the first stop on a Labor Day weekend college football doubleheader. Tech is already up 10-0 early against Jacksonville State. And it looks like it will only get worse.
The nightcap is a matchup of Top 10 teams, No. 5 Alabama and No. 7 Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome.
Rudy Strum of Pelham, Ala., and Ashley Woodard of Tuscaloosa were setting up their tailgate party just outside the Dome -- 10 hours before the 8 p.m. kickoff.
"I guess you could say we are ate up with it," Strum said.
It is college football fever -- and they were in the right place.
Gail and Elton Griffin of Gardendale, Ala., were walking outside the Dome in matching T-shirts. "We interrupt this marriage for football season," the shirts read.
And the retired couple have been doing it for 46 seasons now.
"Roll, Tide, Roll," Gail shouted.
The Virginia Tech and Bama folks are filling up Atlanta, and spilling into the space here at Georgia Tech. The Hokies and Crimson Tide pretty much owned ESPN's Gameday show this morning at Olympic Park, a short punt from the Dome.
At the popular eatery The Varsity, just on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus, the Browns -- Kin, Beth and Abby -- drove up from Harris County. They are big Bama fans, but came without tickets and planned to drive home in time to watch it on television.
"We just wanted to marinate in it," Beth said.