For many years, teams were not allowed to play in a twelfth game unless the first one was a licensed classic (like the Disneyland Pigskin Classic, Kickoff Classic, and the Eddie Robinson Classic). But in 2002, the NCAA discontinued the rule making the classics no longer necessary.
However, in 2008, executives with Chick-fil-A decided to revive the moniker. After seeing how the NFL had succeeded in turning Week One of its season into a massive party, they saw an opportunity to do something similar for college football.
But part of the problem would be the nature of college football. In the college game, the season tends to build up during the year with the climax coming in the bowl games. To make this idea work, organizers had to figure out how to generate that same level of excitement in Week One.
Bowl games generate the kind of excitement they do because of the competitive match-ups. So, to produce that in the season opener, organizers decided to target teams fans would find compelling.
For the first one on August 30, 2008, they scheduled Alabama and Clemson for what was billed as the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. The Crimson Tide, led by a strong defense and solid running game featuring Mark Ingram and Glen Coffee, won easily, 34-10, in front of 70,000+ fans at the Georgia Dome.
Alabama has played in the game the most (four times). Following the inaugural game in 2008, they played Virginia Tech in 2009 (and won, 34-24) and again in 2013 (and won 35-10). Their last appearance was in 2014 against West Virginia (a 33-23 win).
Last season’s game featured a pair of ranked teams play, No. 18 Georgia and No. 22 North Carolina. Nick Chubb led the way for the Bulldogs with 222 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a come-from-behind win over Georgia, 33-24.
Auburn is scheduled to face off against Washington in the 2018 Classic followed by Alabama and Duke in 2019. Florida State will return in 2020 against West Virginia with Georgia taking on Virginia the following Monday.
The game has always been played in the Georgia Dome but will move to Mercedes-Benz Stadium starting in 2017.