Memo to the Atlantic Coast Conference athletic directors and head football coaches:
Next time someone from Chick-fil-A sends you an invitation to open the college football season in the Georgia Dome, do your due diligence.
Ask one simple question.
Is Alabama coming?
If so, send your regrets. Tell the chicken folks to let the cows play Alabama, because, if you don't, your season could be over before Labor Day.
For the second year in a row, the Crimson Tide won the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Last year, it was a rout of Clemson.
This year, it was a brawl with No. 7 Virginia Tech. Alabama won 34-24, but it was much closer than a 10-point game. For the longest time, it looked like No. 5 Alabama would take a loss back down I-20.
"This is one of those games where you had to keep responding," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "This team probably responded to adversity better than we ever have."
It didn't take the Crimson Tide long to discover the difference between Clemson of a year ago and Virginia Tech.
You hit the Hokies in the mouth, they hit back. There was no quit in the boys from Blacksburg.
But, as Virgina Tech found out the hard way, Alabama hits back, too.
The Crimson Tide swung away to the tune of 18 fourth-quarter points that erased a Hokie lead and ignited the Alabama crowd.
Two moves by Alabama captain Rolando McClain said a lot about this year's team.
One appeared to be a costly game-changer for Alabama. When it appeared a Hokie fumble had cost Virginia Tech 15 yards in the red zone late in the first half, McClain drew two penalties — both personal fouls.
That erased an Alabama advantage and was the primary reason the Hokies took a 17-16 halftime lead.
It was a lead that held up until early in the fourth quarter.
McClain drew the first penalty during the play and the second one while protesting the call. He appeared to be trying for a third one before his teammates ushered him to the far side of the field.
That isn't what a captain does in the crunch.
"We lost our poise there in the two-minute situation on defense and gave them a touchdown basically on penalties and a busted coverage," Saban said.
But McClain and the rest of the Alabama defense stepped up in the third quarter.
Alabama running back Roy Upchurch broke through the Virginia Tech line and got inside the Hokie 10 before he was caught from behind and the ball flew free.
The Hokies had stooped what appeared to be a go-ahead drive.
Upchurch hung his head as he slowly walked to the Alabama sideline.
McClain met him as the Alabama defense came onto the field. McClain stopped and put his hands on Upchurch’s helmet.
The two shared a moment.
No one disclosed what was said. But the next three times Alabama got the ball, it scored.
That was a good Virginia Tech defense that Alabama shredded in the final 15 minutes.
Alabama finished with nearly 500 yards total offense — and it was pretty evenly split in the air and on the ground.
Greg McElroy proved he can be an effective replacement for John Parker Wilson at quarterback.
Mark Ingram had 150 yards rushing, and Upchurch had 90.
That bodes well as Alabama looks to defend its Southeastern Conference Western Division title and take the next step — a conference title or even, gasp, a national title.
When the new polls come out, Alabama will likely move up a spot after No. 3 Oklahoma lost to BYU.
But it is way too early to start looking at polls.
Still, you sense there could be something special brewing in Tuscaloosa.
But this third edition of the Nick Saban era — yes, it’s starting to look like the beginnings of an era — could signal the road back to a string of conference and national championships might not be far off.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer made this snap assessment: “They got a heck of a football team. ...They got it. They got a defense, got veteran kickers, got a quarterback who played well. They got it.”
Last year, folks were hoping, some even praying, that Alabama was on the road back. Now, it appears certain that the swagger has returned to Tuscaloosa.
Alabama can take that swagger home for a two-week run against Florida International and North Texas.
Then the real work starts.
But this team looks capable of some heavy lifting.