ATLANTA -- Alabama coach Nick Saban will never fret the coins that Alabama might have been lost by playing four season-opening games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium in his seven years as head coach.
The Tide beat Clemson and Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Classic Game in 2008 and 2009, respectively, routed Michigan in last season’s Cowboys Classic in Dallas then returned to Atlanta on Saturday to beat Virginia Tech 35-10.
“First of all, I think it helps prepare our team for playing in our league, which is very difficult; playing on the road in our league, which is very difficult,” Saban said. “I think when you play against a good team it makes you realize what you have to do to play against the good teams in our league, how we need to improve.
“So I think there’s a lot of benefits to it.”
He said the 2008 and 2009 Chick-fil-A Games “did as much to kick-start our program as anything we ever did because it was game day. In those days it was the only game. We got a tremendous amount of exposure.
“We played Clemson and Virginia Tech, who were ranked teams, and were able to beat them both. I really think that helped kick-start our program to become what it’s become.”
Alabama has won three of the past four national championships.
Not so special teams
Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech teams have long been praised for their outstanding special teams play, but the Hokies struggled against the Tide on Saturday.
The Hokies return game regularly gave the offense bad starting field position and the coverage team allowed Christion Jones to score two touchdowns.
“When you start playing young kids, that’s where you're going to notice it the quickest,” Beamer said. “We had a bunch of new guys out there on kickoff return, kickoff coverage, new guys on punt coverage. But that’s not an excuse. I mean, we just got to play better.”
The Tide gained 227 yards and scored two touchdowns in the return game while holding the Hokies to just 139 yards. Saban praised his specialists.
“The number one goal in special teams is control vertical field position,” Saban said. “I thought that was a big part of this game tonight. Not only the return game, but the good punts, the good coverage, the drive starts created by the kickoff coverage team, several inside the 20. Those things are huge advantages. Affects the offense in terms of what they can do.”
When Alabama arrived in Atlanta on Friday, a picture of quarterback AJ McCarron in a walking boot set the internet on fire.
News was later released that McCarron had a minor surgical procedure to fix an ingrown toe nail that caused an infection.
McCarron said the toe or his foot did not bother him in Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech.
“It’s a little ridiculous if you ask me,” McCarron said of the controversy caused by the picture. “I had an ingrown toenail. It got stepped on, which made it worse. It got infected really bad. I had it surgically removed. I had part of my nail cut off and some skin on the side so they could go in and cut the hangnail out.”